On Tuesday, September 29, from 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm EST, the American Bakers Association’s NextGenBaker program presented "Leading in the Landscape of Today," a session in their Virtual Leadership Series focusing on leadership lessons learned in the face of the unprecedented challenges of 2020.

The event, moderated by NextGenBaker Co-Chairs Kelly Mariotti of Weston Foods and Campbell Williams of B.C. Williams, featured industry senior leaders:

  • Luc Mongeau, president of Weston Foods
  • Tom Benner, president and CEO of Lesaffre Corporation/Red Star Yeast
  • Trina J. Bediako, president and COO of New Horizons Baking Company
  • Mario Somoza, president and CEO of Pan Pepin

Topics discussed included key factors in motivating employees for success, adapting and innovating with shifting demand, and effective communication tactics, among others. 

"I believe a key to motivating employees in such a unique situation as we are in today is to let them know through words and actions that their health and wellbeing is our top priority,” said Mario Somoza.

Trina Bediako said: "Consistent and honest communication [is key in motivating]. As leaders of the company, we’re scared too, with unknowns, but we’re out there fighting with you. In addition to that active appreciation, we’ve given bonuses, lunches, different events that let them know that they’re important. Now more than ever there has to be more than a paycheck involved in this relationship, [there] has to be caring and teamwork involved."

Tom Benner said: “One of the aspects of this industry that is often overlooked is its resilience. Resilience to economic cycles and other challenges. With so much uncertainty in the world, the baking industry offers workers stability and dependability.” As for adapting and innovating with shifting demands, Bediako said that they apply ACAC: Awareness, Compliance, Appreciation & Comfort.

"We’ve made videos with employees reminding fellow employees to follow COVID compliance and videos from the Ownership and leadership with similar reminders."

New Horizons Baking also recently completed an A/C system project to make their facilities more comfortable for their employees, and offer various types of masks to wear.

Luc Mongeau says that what's interesting in the crisis is that demand for baked goods has not come down.

"If anything, it has come up because people turn to baked goods for certain level of comfort. We’ve accelerated our rate of forecasting—inventory replenishment, etcetera—to ensure where the demand is shifting in the market. Foodservice industry has been greatly impacted but demand for baked goods had gone up."

Somoza says that he saw a local shift from one channel to another: restaurants and foodservice customers shutting down and moving to the retail side of the business.

"Kids are learning at home so there are no more school lunches—we had buns and rolls demands like it was summer, since more people were making sandwiches at home. We were able to shift resources from the restaurant side to meet increased demand on the retail side."

These events are free to all ABA members, thanks to the generosity of sponsors: BCW, SF&WB,  ATBI, Mother Murphy’s, Lesaffre Corporation, and Society of Bakery Women.

Don't miss the third part of the series, the "After Chats" to continue the discussion and reflect on what you've learned with other attendees. This is a great opportunity to connect with your peers. RSVP to Christina Donnelly at cdonnelly@americanbakers.org

  • October 13, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EDT | NextGenBaker After Chat: Leading Your Team in the New Normal
  • November 10, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EDT | NextGenBaker After Chat: The Power of Political Engagement 
  • December 8, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EDT | NextGenBaker After Chat: Leading in the Landscape of Today

Click here to view all events in the virtual series.