BOCA RATON, FLA. – After successfully overcoming a demand blizzard at the onset of the pandemic and in the midst of a daily struggle to maintain production levels in the face of workforce and supply chain challenges, bakers are ready for the biggest wave of new product introductions in years, said Robb MacKie, president and CEO of the American Bakers Association.
Sharing “bakery trends” with US flour mill executives, Mr. MacKie spoke on October 8 at the North American Millers’ Association annual meeting. The NAMA meeting was held October 7-10 at the Boca Beach Hotel in Boca Raton.
Mr MacKie thanked the Millers for participating in a coalition of 65 food and beverage groups, collectively interacting with the Food and Drug Administration and other government authorities to help ensure that the food industry is able to maintain the flow of food products to supermarkets. and other customers.
“Our partnership is stronger than ever,” MacKie said of the relationship between bakers and millers.
While demand for baked goods has been strong since the start of the pandemic, labor and supply chain issues are creating increasingly pressing issues for bakers, MacKie said. .
“These are daily challenges,” he said. “We have members who literally, if they have five people who don’t show up for work, will have to shut down production for the day. “
The causes of labor shortages are manifold and include the lingering direct effects of the COVID-19 pandemic (people worried about returning to work or workers quarantined due to exposure to virus), large amounts of government aid making it easier for workers to delay re-entering the workforce and ‘pre-existing’ problems – finding an adequate workforce was the bakery industry’s main problem long before the pandemic .
Mr. MacKie devoted much of his presentation to the findings of an ABA-commissioned Rabobank study on trends affecting the grain-based food industry.
He noted a dichotomy between consumers who work from home in greater numbers than ever before and bakeries and other food production workers who “haven’t had a day off.”
Over time, Rabobank expects the percentage of the workforce still working from home to be on contract, but not at pre-COVID levels. Ultimately, office workers are expected to work on average about one day a week from home, which would be a big increase from before the pandemic.
For the baked food industry, Mr MacKie said the change is affecting the restaurant industry by reducing demand for sandwich shops as well as breakfast stores. Conversely, the development was positive for certain retail categories, including breakfast bread.
Other changes affecting bakers include a reduction in the number of celebrations like birthdays during the pandemic. In the future, such events should include fewer people. For baking, this change can mean a mother ordering a smaller birthday cake than in the past or even opting for a dozen individual cupcakes rather than a full cake.
Over the past 18+ months, bakers have strived to maintain discipline when it comes to storage units, focusing on higher margin products and balancing the desire to provide customers with variety. with the need to keep factories operating as close to capacity as possible. . Going forward, Mr. MacKie said that would change.
“What will follow is really important,” he said. “I think it’s a real opportunity for small bakers to source some of the smaller volume products. The other thing that’s going to happen, they’ve done a ton of research on new products. I think we’re facing a wave over the next six to eight months of unprecedented new product rollouts. I think it’s exciting. We are talking about “How do we break the mold? “” How can we create new flavors? This is where you come in. Bakers are looking for partners.
Baked foods have become a staple of the burgeoning online grocery store, Mr. MacKie said. The different needs associated with selling bread and other baked goods through e-commerce add new product development opportunities.
Overall, Mr MacKie said a major emerging trend has been the willingness of consumers to pay more for value-added bread and other baked goods.
“I think we’ll see more of it,” he said. “A lot of the new products that will be rolled out, bakers will try to keep more of that margin with these items. This is where some of the innovation of ingredients will come into play.
Mr. MacKie concluded his remarks by urging millers to take advantage of changing consumer perceptions of grain-based foods. He quoted Vance Crowe, a communications consultant, who addressed the ABA annual meeting earlier this year:
“Ask yourself, ‘What can we do that we haven’t done before to make changes that we haven’t done before?’ Because that window of opportunity will never happen again.