Lessons from the 2017 ABA convention
The 2017 American Bakers Association (ABA) Convention featured our most thought-provoking and provocative program yet, centered around the enormous disruptions impacting the baking industry. The program began with “Fresh Take Talks” presented by the Grain Foods Foundation featuring quick, informative presentations from the John Avlon, editor-in-chief and managing director of the award-winning news and opinion website “The Daily Beast” (www.thedailybeast.com), and food thought leader Eve Turow Paul, author of “A Taste of Generation Yum: How the Millennial Generation’s Love for Organic Fare, Celebrity Chefs and Microbrews Will Make or Break the Future of Food,” addressing the challenge of authentically connecting and communicating with today’s consumers.
The “Disruption—Business as Unusual” panel, moderated by Cyrille Filott, global strategist for consumer foods, RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness, kept attendees engaged with its examination of today’s extremely fluid marketplace and consumer perspectives. During this eye-opening discussion, the panel offered strategies of how to succeed in our increasingly turbulent times and perspectives on the demise of category management for retailers.
Coming out of the ABA Convention, the baking industry had a much-clearer idea about the challenges ahead and the potential opportunities to both grow individually and as an industry.
Amidst these disruption discussions, ABA quietly began a strategic planning process that could potentially transform ABA and the baking industry. The focus of the process will be to explore closer alignment with the industry’s core customers while seeking out new sales channels. It also will look at how to better promote the industry and its products to a multi-dimensional consumer population.
Under the rubric that timing is everything—or that it is better to be lucky than good—the prescience of the ABA leadership was validated by the recent announcement that Amazon was acquiring Whole Foods Market. What was brewing below the radar has now exploded into the public consciousness. Much has been written about the impact this merger will have on the American consuming public and those in retail, however, none more insightful than the analysis provided by Rabobank in “Amazon Moves Offline,” and “The Amazon–Whole Foods Deal Means Every Other Retailer’s Three-Year Plan Is Obsolete” from Harvard Business Review. With very clear vision, both articles dissect what is likely to happen and what is hyperbole, particularly as it pertains to food and baking. One thing is clear: It is a game-changing event in retail, and the pace of disruption has just accelerated.
ABA will continue to work closely with its members’ core customers in retail and foodservice while also exploring opportunities for emerging sales channels that could drive overall category growth. Requests for the data and information presented at the 2017 ABA Convention have grown dramatically in the past few weeks; see the “2017 ABA Convention Edition” of the ABA Bulletin for details. For bakers looking to refresh or learn more, this would be a good starting point.
Only time will tell whether the “There’s a great future in plastics” analogy from “The Graduate” or “I’m not dead” from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” is more appropriate.
Perhaps Bette Davis captured it best as Margo Channing in “All About Eve” when she dramatically announced, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”