The American Bakers Association (ABA) convened this week virtually, during its 2021 "Believe in Bakery" Virtual Convention, from March 22–23, 2021.

At the opening All Membership Meeting, the Bakery of the Year award was presented to CAULIPOWERSnack Food & Wholesale Bakery's 2021 recipient. Gail Becker, founder and CEO of CAULIPOWER, was on hand via video to accept the award. CAULIPOWER was launched in 2017, and is ranked #10 in the frozen pizza category in the U.S. overall. Its revenue is more than $100 million per year, and it has also now expanded to chicken tenders, tortillas, and other categories. 

During the “#BakingStrong: The Power in Community” session, Erin Sharp, group vice president of manufacturing, The Kroger Co., talked about how Kroger has been donating to Feeding America and local food banks during the pandemic. Brad Alexander, chief operating officer, Flowers Foods, spoke about how relationships with food banks is important, as well. Both Kroger and Flowers have also been giving pandemic bonuses to its employees.

At Monday's 2:30pm EST session, "Future-Proofing the Commercial Baking Industry: Lessons from a Pandemic," Marjorie Hellmer, president, Cypress Research, gave some interesting findings about the impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. commercial baking industry. Retail tends to be most resilient, with sales up through 2020.

12:30pm EST on Tuesday brought the Fireside Chat followed by "Adapting and Innovating: The Omnichannel Experience." 

Robb MacKie, president and CEO, ABA, provided some interesting statistics: the bakery department is up 5.2 percent in sales to $34.2 billion. 

Single-serve desserts are also on the rise—either something small and indulgent, for just one person, or a smaller serving size for groups. 

At 2:30pm EST on Tuesday, "The Window of Opportunity for Baked Goods" was presented by Communications Consultant Vance Crowe. He spoke about baked goods’ role in society throughout time, starting from the age of Neanderthals, and how the pandemic has created a moment of rapid change in consumers’ habits and ways of thinking that has given the baking industry an opportunity to engage with consumers new to their products.

At 4:00pm EST on Tuesday, "The New Frontier of Bakery Manufacturing: Emerging Technology and the Supplier Partnership" was started off by Daniel van der Have, managing director, Accenture. van der Have, a self-proclaimed "technology mythbuster" for buzzwords like automation and IT, talked about how the events of the last 12 months have been unprecedented, and that companies that took the opportunity to invest in technology prior to the "disruption" may have benefited overall. He also spoke about the roles that emerging technologies can play, what the workforce of the future will look like, and how to retain, attract, and develop future workforces for businesses. 

He also said that on a macro level, there has never been a better time for emerging technology in the bakery industry.

The full lineup of sessions included:

Monday, March 22 

  • Networking Session - Industry Meet & Greet
  • All Membership Meeting and #BakingStrong: The Power in Community
    • Speakers: Brad Alexander, chief operating officer, Flowers Foods; Brian LeComte, chief operating officer, Gold Medal Bakery; Robb MacKie, president and CEO, American Bakers Association; Douglas Peckenpaugh, group editorial director, BNP Media; Erin Sharp, group vice president of manufacturing, The Kroger Co.; Jorge Zarate, global operations SVP, Grupo Bimbo
  • Networking Session - Women in Bakery Roundtable
  • Networking Session - Workforce Retention & Recruitment
  • Future-Proofing the Commercial Baking Industry: Lessons from a Pandemic
    • Speakers: Bill Hanes, VP, marketing and strategy, Lesaffre and Red Star Yeast Company; Bob McGuire, VP, director of logistics, Alpha Baking Company; Lee Sanders, SVP, government relations and public affairs, American Bakers Association; Felipe Velasquez, director of operations, AbiMar Foods
  • Networking Session - CEO Roundtable: Playing Offense
  • Networking Session - American Bakers PAC Roundtable: Political Engagement & the Baking Industry
  • ATBI Leadership Session - Playing Offense: Unleash Your Purpose, Performance and Impact

Tuesday, March 23

  • Networking Session - Industry Meet & Greet
  • Fireside Chat followed by Adapting and Innovating: The Omnichannel Experience
    • Speakers: Tom Bené, president and CEO, National Restaurant Association; Taneya Clark, bakery category manager, The Giant Company; Jennifer Colfelt, vice president, operations and membership, American Bakers Association; Liliana Economakis, divisional vice president of business development, ARYZTA; Cordia Harrington, CEO, Crown Bakeries; Robb MacKie, president and CEO, American Bakers Association; Christine Prociv, SVP marketing, innovation and R&D, ARYZTA North America; Jeffrey Quasha, corporate R&D chef, Morrison Healthcare; Bill Quigg, president, Richmond Baking; and Bob Villapiano, director, fresh bake division, Wakefern Food Corp.
  • Networking Session - Understanding Policy Impacts to Baking Business
  • Networking Session - NextGenBaker Roundtable: High Performance Teams
  • The Window of Opportunity for Baked Goods
    • Speaker: Vance Crowe, communications consultant
  • Networking Session – The Future of Sustainability in the Baking Industry
  • Networking Session - Membership Roundtable: What Keeps You Up at Night?
  • The New Frontier of Bakery Manufacturing: Emerging Technology and the Supplier Partnership
    • Speakers: Rick Hoskins, president, Colborne Foodbotics and Yeaman Machine Technology, and Bill Livingstone, vice president Campbells Snacks Manufacturing Operations, Campbell Soup Company

Registered attendees can click here to view all sessions on-demand.

The 2022 ABA Convention will take place March 27–30, 2022, at the La Quinta Resort & Club in Palm Springs, CA.