One World of Baking

Dan Malovany, editor

Having just returned from the iba 2006 show in Munich, I know what you’re thinking: I hope this pompous dork is not going to lecture us about global trends in the snack and baking industry. Yes, this clown was tempted to wax poetically about the “Macroeconomic Implications of Interrelated Economies in Today’s Business Environment,” but fortunately for you, I almost passed out thinking about something that freakin’ boring.
Speaking of passing out, there was a lot of that going on at Oktoberfest, where the art of multitasking involved eating, drinking, dancing, singing and peeing all at the same time. Okay, I’m just kidding. But then there was the ubiquitous tossing of your cookies, which doesn’t translate directly into German, even though the locals practiced it nightly as if it were an international competitive event. No, I’m not kidding about that.
While on the topic of international events, iba 2006 certainly attracted hordes of bakers, not only from Europe but also from the United States. For several suppliers, the list of baking companies was a Who’s Who of customers walking the floor.
In most cases, bakers were looking for versatile, modular systems that easily can be reconfigured to produce a wide variety of products on a single line. Additionally, the emphasis at iba 2006 clearly was on customizing equipment to create specific, often difficult-to-automate baked goods. The days of buying one-size-fits-all dedicated lines seem to be pretty much in the past.
Perhaps most notably, iba 2006 had a much more industrial look than in the past, as equipment companies reacted to a changing marketplace. In Germany, for instance, the number of retail bakeries has declined from 22,000 a few years ago to just 16,000 today, according to Peter Becker, chairman of the German Bakers’ Confederation, which organizes the show. In many instances, the old German master bakers are retiring, and their kids don’t want anything to do with the family business. I guess that blogging is much easier than baking.
As a result, central commissaries, which supply a network of retail outlets with fresh-delivered products daily, are replacing the masters who specialized in the art of baking. In addition, frozen dough and par-baked goods are surging in popularity. The baking industry in Europe today looks strangely familiar to the way the United States appeared 20 years ago. Even frozen pizza is rising in sales … but stay away from the stinky tuna fish variety that’s popular overseas.
Not surprisingly, health and wellness has become a powerful universal trend. Ingredient suppliers such as Bake Mark International and Puratos Corp. had huge displays dedicated to producing better-for-you products. Signs declaring new products as organic, natural, whole grain, multigrain, prebiotic and probiotic proliferated in exhibits throughout iba 2006. Likewise, companies are forming associations dedicated to developing healthful baked goods throughout Europe.
As Gary Edwards, president of Lallemand/American Yeast Division, explained, “Today, it’s all about making healthy healthier.”
Despite concerns about inflation, rising costs and other challenges in the United States, the overall international perception at iba 2006 appeared to be cautiously optimistic. Certainly, exhibitors at the show are hoping the momentum carries on to the International Baking Industry Exposition, which runs Oct. 7-10, 2007, in Orlando.
As for me, my schedule is less taxing. After a couple weeks in Munich, I’m thinking of heading to Mardi Gras to teach the folks down South how the professionals really party. They need to learn how to take multitasking to the next level.