Backstage At IDDBA

Ted Koppel, Emmitt Smith, Tom Peters, Madeleine Albright. Those are some of the big names highlighting this year’s International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association show, which will be held June 3-5 in Anaheim, Calif. This year’s theme is “All Access…Backstage Pass.”
We asked Carol Christison, the IDDBA’s energetic executive director, to take us behind the scenes of this year’s show and share with us some of the highlights from the association’s previous conventions. For more about the 2007 event, visit, or e-mail them at
Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery: Over the years, the annual Dairy-Deli-Bake show has had a Who’s Who list of speakers and celebrities. Who are some of your all-time favorites, and why?
Carol Christison: My all-time, bar-none favorite is Gen. Colin Powell. A close second is Gen. Norman H. Schwarzkopf. You gotta love a man in uniform! Not only are these two the very best at what they do, they are very interested in what others have to say. Terry Bradshaw made me laugh. Erin Brockovich made my cry. And Tom Peters made me think.
SF&WB: Once again, IDDBA has great lineup of featured speakers. How did you put together the list for this show?
Christison: It’s one thing to have a “wish list” of speakers; it’s another thing to find dates that match their schedules. Even so, all major speakers have “out clauses” that allow them to cancel their contracts at the last minute. They’re hoping they get a movie deal or a better offer, and I’m praying they don’t. Because of scheduling conflicts, we often have to wait several years to get a top-name speaker.
SF&WB: Give us an example of a big name speaker whom you finally snagged?
Christison:Former President Bill Clinton had a standing invitation to speak to us for three years, but wasn’t available on our dates. At the 11th hour last year, his schedule opened up, and I received a call that said he wanted to come to our event. Well, I had just signed a non-cancelable contract with Ted Koppel for this time slot. The agency said I could cancel but still had to pay the fee. I asked them to call Ted and explain the situation. They did and he said, cancel the contract. No penalty. Just invite me again. And we did. He is in our program this year. He is a class act.
When we look at speakers and topics, our over-riding focus is what’s current and how will a particular speaker impact our attendees in a positive manner? We want speakers who can have a message that will be a positive influence both personally and professionally. It’s not rocket science; it’s not even kitchen science. It’s people science — find out what’s happening and deliver it.
SF&WB: How can IDDBA afford such a star-studded lineup of speakers?
Christison:  Fortunately, you don’t have to be high-priced to be good. That means that we have speakers that work for free or for a little or that are willing to negotiate the fee. The exposure that comes from being on stage in front of top industry executives has real value in terms of future business for speakers. They understand that.
We’re a nonprofit association and are able to keep our costs low. We haven’t raised membership dues or conference registration fees since the mid-1980s. Our motive is to put together a comprehensive package of speakers with meaningful content that will encourage our attendees to choose to come to our show. The cost of attending is more than just a registration fee. Please note that qualified retailers can attend our show for free.
SF&WB: Your state-of-the-industry speech is about defining fads and trends. What’s one of the weirdest food fads that you’ve seen over the years?
Christison:Not exactly weird, but one of the more exotic fads was deep-fried Twinkies. I tried these in my own kitchen, and they were delicious. I put a popsicle stick in the Twinkie, then dipped it in batter, fried it, dipped it in melted chocolate, added more batter, refried it and coated it in powdered sugar. I called it heart attack on a stick. To die for!
SF&WB: One of IDDBA’s presentations is “Liars and Tyrants and Bores! Oh My!” Another is “All Marketers are Liars, Purple Cows and Free Prize Inside.” Hmmm, are you trying to tell us something?
Christison: Nope. Just trying to get your attention. How’m I doing?
The reality is that a funny or clever title is the key to getting someone to read the descriptive copy for a program. Once we’ve got their attention and they take the time to evaluate what they’ll learn, they’re hooked. Our speakers put a great deal of effort into creating interesting, insightful and humorous presentations that impart meaningful concepts and actionable ideas.  
SF&WB: What challenges are facing in-store bakers?
Christison: The challenges are many. Just take your pick. Labor, costs, food safety, legislation, global issues, the environment and competition, for starters.
In the food business, with all of the mergers and acquisitions and business closings, your competitor today could be your boss tomorrow. It’s not enough to keep your shoulder to the wheel; you have to keep your eye on the competition, your nose to the grindstone and your hand on your wallet. Whether you’re buying or selling, knowledge and how you use it will give you the competitive edge.
SF&WB: What’s your favorite bakery product, and why?
Christison: Hot cross buns. When I was a kid, my mom made our own bread. I can remember the smell of fresh yeast bread rising. I can remember the taste of the raw dough that I’d pinch from the sides of the bowl. I can remember the feel of the willow switch on my backside when I got caught. Did you ever wonder where that cross-hatch pattern came from?
SF&WB: What new services are you offering members this year?
Christison:  Our new research project this year is on Environmental Sustainability. We’re working with the Willard Bishop Co. to create an in-depth study that will cover agriculture, energy, packaging, fuel, water and best practices for both the manufacturing and retail side of our business.
Another new project is a series of Web-based training programs. Designed for all perishable departments, we’re covering customer service and meat, deli, cheese, bakery, seafood and produce product categories, for starters. The first program will be available for viewing in the IDDBA education booth at the show.
SF&WB: Your show’s theme is “All Access, Backstage Pass.” How did you select this?
Christison: Our underlying focus is to provide a package that shows retailers and manufacturers how something as simple as a trade show can lay the ground work for Total Store Selling.
Total Store Selling is something that we’ve been talking about for years. We want to demonstrate how a theme can be used to create experiences and learning opportunities that build shopper interest and create sales opportunities for the entire store, not just one department.
Our exhibitors use our theme as a backdrop to create interest in their products, too. Theme selling adds flavor to the booths and makes it fun. A theme is a hook that captures the attention first and then the imagination of the buyer.
If retailers see what we can do in a convention center, with no kitchen or fixtures or production staff, then it’s easy for them to see what they can do at store level. Short and simple, it’s just one word: experience. Create the experience, keep the customer.
SF&WB: Have you ever been backstage to a Rolling Stones or some other concert? If so, are all the rumors true about getting access to the backstage? Inquiring minds want to know.
Christison: I’d love to dish, but I promised Mick that, unlike him, I’d keep my mouth shut.
SF&WB: Finally, Carol, feel free to highlight anything else that we should know about IDDBA.
Christison: Each year, the one big thing that makes my heart sing is the creative talent demonstrated by all of the retailers and manufacturers who volunteer their time to put together the Show & Sell Center. These talented world-class merchandisers spend many weekends and many hours on the phone creating food themes and concepts, ordering product, and then cooking, preparing, and merchandising the food at the show.
They all have real jobs, yet they find time to give back to this wonderful industry. They are the real stars of the Show & Sell Center. I’d like to invite everyone to ask for their autograph and share their appreciation. In fact, this area gets so much attention that we’ll be creating a photo CD to send to everyone that stops by the Center to register. The CD will be sent after the show, but will have all of the merchandising ideas, themes, props and products on display.
Alpha Baking Buys Natural Ovens
Chicago-based Alpha Baking Co. established a firm foothold in the organic and all-natural bread and other baked goods segments with its acquisition of Natural Ovens Bakery in Manitowoc, Wis., in March.
Natural Ovens produces better-for-you breads, rolls, bagels, cookies and bakery mixes that are Kosher-certified and contain no preservatives. They are sold fresh to retailers and natural food stores throughout the upper Midwest and in other parts of the nation.
Natural Ovens Bakery was founded in 1976 by Paul Stitt, who, with his wife, Barbara, ran the bakery until 2005. The Stitts turned over the bakery to the bakery’s management team at that time, but remained its owners.
Alpha Baking produces a wide variety of value-added products sold under the S.Rosen, Golden Hearth, Mary Ann and Kreamo brands. The company has more than 1,000 employees and operates two bakeries in Chicago and one in La Porte, Ind. It also has more than 300 trucks that direct-store deliver baked goods throughout the Midwest and ships them frozen to foodservice and retail accounts nationwide.
Sourdough Education
To help wholesale bakers create the Old World flavor of authentic sourdough breads in less time and without extensive skilled labor, Puratos is holding a series of Sourdough Seminars throughout the nation. The first seminars were held in Philadelphia in March and in Boston in April and showed bakers how to create signature sourdough bread and rolls using Puratos’ Sapore sourdough. The seminars focus on sourdough biochemistry, the difference between powder and liquid sourdough, industrial sourdough production and more. Future seminars will be held in Chicago; Los Angeles; Portland, Ore., and other locations throughout the year. Call 1-856-428-4300 or visit for more information.
S.L.I.C.I.N.G Up Data
Consumers spend 71% more dollars at the grocery store when bread is purchased, partly because it complements some of retailers’ biggest profit generators, including deli meets, cookies, crackers and chocolate snacks.
That’s just one of the facts revealed by Sara Lee Food & Beverage under its S.L.I.C.E. or Sara Lee Insights for Category Excellence program. The initiative is designed to drive retailer growth and profits by maximizing consumer interactions in fresh bakery, which is one of the largest categories in the supermarket.
Over an 18-month period, Sara Lee’s cross-disciplinary team of marketing and research professionals gathered data on consumer buying trends, product assortment, promotions, pricing, product assortment and other factors that impact buying patters. The research also looked at how lifestyle and life stage affect buying trends. The goal is to provide retailers with strategies and tactics to grow their bakery businesses profitably, says John Crowder, director of DSD consumer marketing at Sara Lee Food & Beverage.
“Our research shows us that there is room for growth in bakery sales,” Crowder says.
Stagnito Launches New Magazine Title
Stagnito Communications has announced that it will launch a new magazine entitled Contract Manufacturing & Packaging. CM&P will be a valuable information source for North American brand owners and manufacturers involved in all aspects of product outsourcing. It will premier in May 2007 and will be distributed to 25,000 brand owners and manufacturers across a broad spectrum of consumer packaged goods industries, including the food, beverage, pharmaceutical and personal care product segments. For more information, contact Steven Lichtenstein, publisher, at 1-201-576-9370 or