Current inductees to the American Society of Baking’s (ASB) Baking Hall of Fame, announced on March 4 at the Swedesboro, N.J., association’s annual BakingTech 2013 conference in Chicago, include the late Ernest Nickles of the Alfred Nickles Bakery; the late Willis Clark Pulver, founder of Pulver Systems; and Torahiko Hayashi, founder of Rheon Automatic Machinery.

Ernest Nickles was the son of bakery founder Alfred Nickles. He joined his father’s Ohio-based company in 1925 and worked there full time for 70 years, succeeding his father as president and CEO in 1949.

“I worked with Ernest for 19 years,” says David A. Gardner, Nickles’ president and CEO and Ernest Nickles’ nephew. “He was the smartest, most dedicated and the most humble person with whom I have ever worked. I am extremely proud to have known him.”

One of the tireless Ernest’s greatest accomplishments was transitioning the bakery from a company with 600 routes serving homes to a wholesale baking company with more than 500 routes serving groceries, restaurants and institutions. All those who knew Ernest say the company’s success was due to his hard work and dedication.

Ernest Nickles died in 1995 at age 87 from the effects of a stroke. One day before the stroke, he attended a two-hour company meeting. For that, many say that he literally worked until the day he no longer could.

Self-educated and driven, Pulver lived to the age of 95. He started out as a bakery engineer for the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. and worked for the company for 20 years. In 1948, he and his wife, Norma, founded Pulver Systems Inc., a conveyor equipment business, in Chicago Ridge, Ill. Pulver Systems grew over the next 50 years to become one of the largest family-owned bakery systems manufacturers in the country.

Known for his ingenuity and can-do problem-solving approach, Pulver held numerous patents. He was part of a group of industry pioneers who helped transform bakeries in the 1950s with little, if any, mechanical equipment into fully integrated, automated production facilities that required equipment manufacturers to equip themselves with educated engineers with both mechanical and electrical degrees.

The company’s earliest automated systems include depanners, slicers and cooling conveyors as well as switching mechanisms. Pulver Systems also introduced the concept of automatic pan stacking for storage and later developed basket and tray loaders. Pulver retired to Marion, Ill., in 1978.

Hayashi, founder of Rheon Automatic Machinery of Utsonomiya, Japan, and Rheon Automatic Machinery Co. Ltd., first developed encrusting machines to produce “manju,” a traditional Japanese confection. Rheon was established in 1963 and continues to manufacture and improve ground-breaking equipment. Hayashi’s rheology system operates at high speeds to produce Japanese filled dumplings and buns as well as assorted filled bakery products, confections and prepared foods.

In the 1970s, Rheon invented stress-free stretching processes of making bread and pastries from sheeted dough and introduced a stress-free system for puff pastry and croissants in 1997 at the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE). Rheon presently offers upgraded systems that can produce a variety of products, ranging from ciabatta to pizza crusts.

Hayashi is the third-international member of the Baking Hall of Fame. In 2007, brothers Lorenzo and Roberto Servitje of Grupo Bimbo, Mexico City, were inducted.

SF&WB congratulates all of the award recipients and their families. The Baking Hall of Fame is an initiative of the ASB to recognize industry innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. Created in 2005, the award honors baking industry individuals for their achievements in organizational growth and development, equipment design and innovation, advancements in ingredient technology and processing or related service to the commercial baking industry. According to ASB, the baking industry in America is subdivided according to the industry’s segments of scale of production, processing technology and markets.

The Baking Hall of Fame is based at the American Institute of Baking (AIB) International in Manhattan, Kan., and is open to the public. For information, call 800-713-0462.