Out of Control
Dan Malovany, editor

Managing a snack food or wholesale bakery operation can be a real pain in the butt these days. It’s not just those endless details that drive people nuts during the day. It’s that they’re being asked to manage things that are running amuck.
In the end, it takes not only skill, but also a lot of luck.
It doesn’t matter how big the company is, whether it’s $2 million, $20 million, $200 million or $2 billion. When business becomes unpredictable, it’s tough to clear one’s mind at the end of the day.
“What’s keeping me up at night?” asks Larry Marcucci, president of Chicago-based Alpha Baking Co. “It’s what’s going on with commodities. These days, commodities are out of the end-users’ control.”
What’s a close second?
“Energy,” he responds. Alpha Baking is employing some hedging strategies and component buying to provide some predictability to the cost of doing business. “I’m looking for every angle I can to get me some security,” he says. “It’s very tough.”
In fact, these two issues are eating up so much of his time that they have created a third problem.
“I don’t have any time for golf anymore, and my short game is suffering a lot,” Marcucci says. “You really need to play often in order to keep your short game sharp.”
Now that’s seriously out of control, which is a great way to describe the industry, in more than one way.
Being out of control is not necessarily bad. In some cases, it makes me quite glad. Certainly, for instance, there’s no shortage of all-natural, whole grain and even organic baked goods. Often it makes for good food. George Weston Bakeries, for instance, recently came out with a 15-grain bread. Can anybody give me 20 or 25?
And don’t get me going on fiber. Bakers are putting so much of it into some of their products that it takes just two slices of bread to seriously contribute to global warming. No, no! Don’t light a match. You’ll blow us all up.
On the snack side, new flavors are going extreme, if not quite strange. And if you want to roll out a new product, just cover it with chocolate. Pretzel-covered pretzels are so last year. In England, Diva Chocolates just introduced chocolate-covered beef jerky, and I’m not making that up.
“Our goal is to bring chocolate out of the realm of dessert, combine it with interesting ingredients and serve it up for dinner, or, in the case of our jerky, a healthy snack,” notes Julie Berlin, the company’s co-founder.
Yes, the health and wellness trend might have gotten out of control. In some cases, it’s losing it’s meaning, even in the snack aisle. What’s the magic number?
“Everything is 40% less this year,” notes Debbie Cassell, SF&WB’s managing editor. “Forty percent of what? Sometimes, it’s fat or it’s calories or it’s hard to say. It’s just 40%.”
It takes no stretch of the imagination so see that the industry has become a reality show in its own right. That’s why we selected “Reality Bites” as our theme for 2007. Find out why by tuning in to our often-imitated, never-duplicated, annual report.
Personal Note: I am proud to announce that the American Society of Business Publication Editors has selected SF&WB’s Debbie Cassell as a recipient of its 2007 Young Leaders Scholarship.
Debbie is one of only five editors ages 30 years or younger in the United States to receive the scholarship, which goes to “young editors who are advancing in their editorial careers.” Qualified candidates also must have worked at least two years as an editor of a business magazine or the magazine’s associated Internet publication.
As a scholarship winner, she will attend the ASBPE’s National Editorial Conference in August in NYC. During the conference, Debbie will write articles for the ASBPE National Newsletter and attend the society’s prestigious National Awards Banquet. In addition, she receives a one-year membership to the society.
Congratulations to Debbie for this outstanding accomplishment.