At the ABA 2016 Convention this month, the American Bakers Association approved Fred Penny, president of Bimbo Bakeries USA, as the organization’s new chairman.
SN spoke with Penny via email about the association’s goals, challenges facing the industry, and ways commercial bakeries can work with retailers to capitalize on consumer trends.
Riding the health and wellness trend
With consumers increasingly focused on health and wellness, attributes like whole grains, organic and gluten-free are top of mind in the bakery, Penny noted.
While bread is a great source for grains, it has sometimes been vilified. ABA wants to change that.
“ABA, working with partners like the Grain Foods Foundation, Millers, FMI and NGA, have the opportunity and the obligation to educate consumers about the benefits of whole grains and help them understand that grain-based foods provide vital nutrients and are enjoyable to eat,” said Penny.
The conversation around bread has implications for retailers, too.
“Bread is the number one driver of trips to retail and there is a tremendous opportunity to fill a shopper’s basket on every trip to the market. We must work together to understand the value of our category and the best ways to leverage it,” said Penny.
The regulatory outlook
A recent ABA survey found the cost of regulation and taxes as a result of issues like GMO labeling and sugar reform is the top concern for members.
“Any changes to consumer products through government and regulatory issues are not just a supplier issue, as the related costs will undoubtedly be passed on to the consumer and impact our retailers. Once we understand how any proposed changes will impact our business, we must be aligned on how we can support policies that will be the most beneficial to our consumers and business,” said Penny.
Along with FMI and NGA, ABA supported Sen. Pat Robert’s ultimately failed bill on GMO labeling that would have created national, voluntary standards.
Looking towards the future
Like many in the food industry, hiring and educating the next generation of leaders is a top priority for ABA.
“ABA is leading the way in addressing skills gap concerns and working to fill the critical void in the number of skilled employees to work in our industry,” said Penny. “Additionally, we recognize today’s employees want different things from their employers and their work experience and we must figure out how to show emerging talent the exciting opportunities in this industry.”
Penny also pointed to the International Baking Industry Exposition taking place Oct. 8-11 in Las Vegas as a venue for suppliers and retailers to come together to address a changing industry.
“Partnership between suppliers and retailers are critical. We have the same goal of addressing our consumers’ needs in the way that is most efficient for our businesses and to be successful we must work together,” he said.
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