Fluxuating costs, new regulations, and consumer education are the biggest obstacles facing the baking industry in 2013, says Phyllis Enloe of The Bread Bakers Guild of America. Self-described as, “funky, iconoclastic, independent, creative and colorful,” the organization is a group of baking professionals who jointly work towards a unified goal of producing high quality baked goods. In addition to their online networking resources, they also frequent regional, national and international educational events. Enloe recently spoke with Great American Packaging to converse about the current state of the industry.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the baking industry right now? How can the industry turn these challenges into opportunities?
Challenge: “Input costs. Commodity and energy price volatility should continue due to drought, demand, currency values and other factors.”
Opportunity: “Large operations can hedge their needs using futures markets or forward contracting from suppliers. Smaller operations can hedge also by purchasing and storing commodities such as butter when prices are at levels that work for them.”
Challenge: “Healthcare and government regulations. New healthcare and other regulations will affect all businesses potentially increasing costs and creating some challenging employee issues.”
Opportunity: “It will be important to stay informed about new healthcare and other new regulations in order to be ready to comply and avoid potential fines.”
Challenge: “Educating consumers and employees is an ongoing challenge.”
Opportunity: “Consumers need to know the difference in true artisan products as opposed to products with an “artisan” label and know that many breads and other products that do not use whole grains are also healthy. If artisan bakers are going to charge a premium price, consumers expect a premium product. Educating employees to produce and sell these products is very important. We need to inform the consumer of what it takes to make great bread in the manner we do and educate them about why it may cost more than industrially produced bread. Bakers are trying to make a living just like anyone else, and when our supplies increase in cost, we need to pass that on to the consumer. At times like these, when the consumer is seeing these issues in the national media, it should be easier for us to make our case. The mission of the Bread Bakers Guild of America is to help educate both of these groups.”
Challenge: “Finding skilled workers, especially at the management level.”
Opportunity: “We know the schools are full of students but we don’t see those students coming into artisan bakeries.”
How has the baking industry benefited from the internet and social media?
“It has raised awareness of artisan baking and increased the speed in which ideas spread across the country. A baker in the Northeast can see what someone is doing in California through social media and websites, and be making the same thing in the blink of an eye. Or they may see something that they would never have known about otherwise and seek out the resources to learn how to do it. Sometimes this could be an article or blog post on the internet. Often that resource can be the source, which is now easier to be in touch with than ever. Many bakeries are using Twitter and Facebook to advertise daily specials and let people know when something new is available and even to let them know that something has just come out of the oven and is for sale in the shop. It is free advertising for bakeries and provides a welcome service to the clientele.”
What is the most important trend driving the industry forward?
“As far as driving the industry forward, the continued demand for all natural, wholesome food, that is as local as possible is good for artisan bakers. There are other trends such as whole grains and gluten free, but I wouldn’t say they are driving the industry forward. They have just expanded the repertoire of what bakers are offering.”
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