Reshaping Strategies in a Changing Industry
By Stacey Sharpless
Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers’ Association
Refocus, Rethink, Renew” — the theme for the B&CMA’s recent 80th Annual Technical Conference best sums up the attitude in the biscuit and cracker industry today. As we see the decline of the low-carb craze and bakers are closer to conquering the trans-fat issue, much is looking up for the biscuit and cracker industry. At the same time, however, the industry continues to struggle with challenges coming from many directions. This makes the present a perfect time to take a second look at how we go about our businesses and occupations and how we handle the critical issues put before us.
At the recent technical conference, we did just that, examining many of the critical impact issues while sharing the general feeling of optimism for the industry. Kicking off the conference, Kevin Hunt, co-chief executive officer and president of Ralcorp Holdings, Bremner, Inc., Nutcracker Brands, Inc., and the B&CMA chairman of the board, presented the “State of the Industry,” giving a picture of the retail landscape with a close look at private-label growth.
Libbey Paul from Spectra Marketing then examined the changing consumer, particularly profiling the Hispanic population growth and discussing consumption preferences of that group, demonstrating the growth areas for the industry.
The finely focused technical breakout sessions emphasized the practical application of the subject matter. Each session offered information that attendees could implement to reduce costs, improve profit, improve efficiency or enhance production. The range of topics included nutritional enhancements, chocolate and compound coatings history and handling, vision systems, radio frequency identity, trans fat, and safety and wellness, as well as two “Ask the Expert” panels on production issues.
The educational program ended with Steve Gunther, senior director, global biscuit, Kraft Foods, offering a presentation on conducting R&D in a global economy.
The biscuit and cracker industry continues to see more individuals entering the field with little or no biscuit or cracker manufacturing experience, resulting in an increased need for technical education. This fact was apparent at the conference by the record number of first-time attendees. The program, along with the table-top show and networking opportunities, gave these individuals a solid look at the industry.
In the last year or so we have also seen a diverse enrollment in the “Cookie and Cracker Manufacturing Course (Second Edition)” and an upswing in use of the “Multimedia Based Training Program for the Cookie and Cracker Industry.” The course presently has enrollment across the U.S., plus such diverse regions as Peru, Nicaragua, Egypt, South Africa, Venezuela, Brazil, Costa Rica and China.
Targeted for a supervisor level, it is taken by a wide variety of individuals from scientists to engineers to management and administrative professionals as well as individuals from our allied membership. Since its release we have seen the completion rate from the First Edition Course to the Second Edition Course increase by about 20%, a reflection of the growing need to have employees complete comprehensive training.
The course takes the student through the entire manufacturing process starting with the ingredients and their functions all the way until the product is out the door. There are also chapters on machinery maintenance and care, environmental and quality management and sanitation and safety. The testing component includes multiple-choice questions and work projects that reinforce the course material and can relate directly to the real work the student is responsible for. Students can choose to test using a hard-copy workbook or an online workbook.
The Multimedia Program is a four-CD set that teaches the basics on ingredients, mixing, forming and baking. The lessons can be taken in English or Spanish and have an administrative function so the program manager can track the progress of employees going through the program. It is used in over 55 bakeries worldwide, is intended for facility-wide training and provides training on basic biscuit and cracker fundamentals, which should be especially valuable for those coming in from other industries. The program also has grown in popularity with our Allied members who require service and sales employees to have a basic understanding of what happens in the bakery.
The outlook for the biscuit and cracker industry and the B&CMA is a bright one. With opportunities come challenges. B&CMA will continue to be the primary resource for the educational challenges our members have and will continue to provide the type of programs our members require the most.
For more information on B&CMA, visit or call 1-301-608-1552.