The bakery of the future will be about making connections. It will, of course, boast the latest technology, helping companies enhance efficiency, protect the planet and improve conditions for workers. But it’s also about the connections made between factions inside the bakery and to the outside world, including suppliers, customers and consumers, creating greater transparency and understanding.

“For the bakery of the future, there are basically four areas of focus. First is trying to get even better around improving safety and conditions for associates, with unwavering focus on food quality and safety,” said Brett Buatti, chief supply chain and operations officer, Aspire Bakeries, Los Angeles. “It’s also about a focus on sustainability and about improving efficiency and costs. And finally, there is this notion of connectedness, which helps with all these priorities as well as engagement with your people. Sensor technology and the Internet of Things enable the ability to connect within a bakery, to see more, to be aware of more, and to stay highly engaged with your associates. And it also allows you to actually connect the inside of the bakery to the outside world, whether that be suppliers, equipment manufacturers and service people, customers or even consumers.”

Promising technology is not only on the horizon but is already part of bakeries now, although much of it is complex and systems are still being perfected. 

Large companies are setting ambitious goals to reduce their carbon footprints through reduced packaging waste, energy and water.

“Bakers always strive to be more efficient across the board to make the best use of the resources they have. Energy and energy costs are always top of mind, in particular today with the many global uncertainties that are at hand,” said Rasma Zvaners, vice president, regulatory and technical service, American Bakers Association. “The baking industry already has a tremendous track record for making facilities more energy efficient. Most bakers have assessed their facilities’ efficiencies and Scope 1 emissions (greenhouse gas emissions at their facilities). Now they are looking directly at Scope 2 opportunities — indirect emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, steam, heat or cooling.”

Grupo Bimbo SAB de CV, Mexico City, announced new sustainability goals in a May conference call that included becoming a net zero carbon emissions company by 2050, obtaining 100% of key ingredients through crop cultivation using regenerative agriculture practices by 2050, and ensuring that 100% of its packaging supports a circular economy by 2030. That comes on top of goals the company has already set, including using 100% renewable energy by 2025.

“We are in a decade of action, and this means we need to increase our speed to reach our sustainability goals,” Daniel J. Servitje, chairman and chief executive officer of Grupo Bimbo, said during the call. “In many areas, such as climate change and water management, [if] the world does not act more boldly, it may be too late. We want to be a part of this acceleration, and that is how I can sum up everything that nourishing a better world is. It means nourishing the well-being of people and nature at the same time because we can only make things better if we do both. It is about the planet and about the people that live on it.”

Earlier this year, Hostess Brands Inc., Lenexa, Kan., announced it would invest $120 million to $140 million to transform an idled bakery plant in Arkadelphia, Ark., into a state-of-the-art facility. The bakery will become the company’s most efficient and flexible operation and is expected to increase capacity for Donettes and other products by 20%, said Kevin Sandefur, vice president, operations strategy.

“We are building this bakery with a sustainability-first approach, and we are committed to making it the greenest Hostess bakery we have,” he said. “We’ve outlined our sustainability goals for our company in the Hostess Corporate Responsibility Report that we issued in May, and we expect our Arkadelphia bakery to lead the way in achieving those goals.”

The company is working to make its other bakeries more sustainable and efficient, Mr. Sandefur said, through the reduction of water, energy usage, packaging waste and other waste.

“At Hostess, we will focus on sustainability at our bakeries as we look forward,” he added. “From development to execution, we will approach manufacturing expansion in a sustainable way.”

Barry Edwards, vice president, corporate responsibility and sustainability, Aspire Bakeries, said that bakeries should follow LEED green energy standards when building and adopting standards that move them toward lower net carbon emissions. He also stressed the importance of building in the right place.

“Logistics are forever,” Mr. Edwards said. “There are a lot of miles involved in transporting any product, and the more you can think about where you can locate your facility to try and minimize the miles, whether incoming with raw materials or outgoing to the customer, the better off you’ll be. It makes sense to look at that and try to minimize as much as you can. It’s a long-term amount of miles that you’re going to be creating.”

Employing connected systems that provide real-time access to data will help facilities better manage resources and find problems right away, Mr. Buatti said, rather than seeing a spike in usage a week or month later when it’s too late to act on it. 

“You can use the data in a lot of ways, including efficiency and quality,” he said. “It’s a natural extension to use it on sustainability-focused activities, too. So you can catch energy usage while it’s happening, you can catch wastewater discharge while it’s happening, and you can catch water usage while it’s happening.”

It’s clear bakeries understand that sustainability is an important part of future operations.

“Anything that reduces your overall impact to the environment, whether emissions or energy usage or waste, those are must-haves in the future,” Mr. Buatti said. 

This article is an excerpt from the August 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Centennial Report: Bakery of the Future, click here.