The baking industry came together like never before in 2020 to feed a world stymied by a pandemic.

With vaccines being distributed, the industry is looking to the future, and the American Bakers Association (ABA) is providing new ways to learn and connect as the storm clouds break and normalcy appears on the horizon. At the virtual ABA Convention, March 22-23, bakers will hear from a lineup of speakers and educators and gather in new ways to face the next decade together.

“Relationships have always been an integral part of the baking business,” says Robb MacKie, ABA’s president and chief executive officer. “Whether it’s between bakers or with their suppliers, customers and consumers, those relationships are the beating heart of who we are as an industry and as a community. Now, more than ever, industry leaders are seeking forums for B2B connections to address the obstacles and opportunities they’re facing, and that is what the ABA Convention offers when we bring the baking community together.”

This year’s convention theme is “Believe in Bakery,” and the educational sessions aim to inspire that belief.

The “#BakingStrong: The Power in Community” session will feature Brad Alexander, chief operating officer, Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga., and ABA chair, and immediate past chair Erin Sharp, group vice president, manufacturing, The Kroger Co., Cincinnati. They will reflect on the countless stories that have been shared about ABA members supporting their industry colleagues, team members and communities.

Additionally, Baking & Snack partnered with ABA to assess wholesale baker perceptions of the pandemic’s impact through an industry pulse survey conducted by Cypress Research and sponsored by Lesaffre and Red Star Yeast Co. The survey results will be presented to examine where the industry was at the beginning of the pandemic, how it adapted and the state of the industry now.

Marjorie Hellmer, president of Cypress Research, will also lead an in-depth discussion with industry leaders about implications of the survey findings. Insights will be shared about how bakery manufacturers and their supply chain partners are developing solutions to minimize the stresses of future unanticipated events and better position the industry for success.

ABA also recognizes that many traditions, habits and ways of thinking changed in an instant in 2020. From an increase in home baking to the high demand for pre-packaged foods, consumers are moving away from entrenched ideas about baked goods. Vance Crowe, communications consultant and international speaker, will help attendees understand the dynamics behind these changes and what can be done to maintain the baking category’s momentum.

“Recognizing the accelerated change happening in the baking landscape, the 2021 ABA Convention program is more forward-looking and comprehensive than ever before,” MacKie says.

Two panel discussions will center on the future of the industry. “Adapting and Innovating: The Omnichannel Experience” will bring together grocery retail, foodservice, and bakery companies to share how they progressed to continue serving their customers and what they anticipate for the year ahead. Another panel session, “The New Frontier of Bakery Manufacturing: Emerging Technology and the Supplier Partnership,” presented in partnership with BEMA, will examine how bakeries can tap into technology and supplier partnerships to meet the changing demands of their consumers, persistent workforce recruitment and retention challenges, and an evolving operating environment.

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