Skip navigation

A little paranoia is healthy

"Too often, we study a good idea until it becomes a bad idea," says an unnamed supermarket industry exec, which is, of course, just another way to phrase a more familiar axiom: He who hesitates is lost.

There's an inherent value to being the first to market with a new bakery product idea once. But that value is compounded when a bakery makes it a regular thing, when customers come to know they can depend on that bakery for new ideas or new thinking. This value goes beyond the generic value, or the sheer utility of a baked product as a food item that tastes good. And it goes beyond the expected value, the idea that customers expectations for relative convenience, fair price, or a product's visual appeal. No, bakers who remain ahead of the curve are snapping up an amorphous sort of value; some might call it uncharted.

According to Dr. Oren Harari, business prof at the U of San Francisco who closed out today's IDDBA educational sessions, only the paranoid survive. "In today's 'me too' copycat economy, you are going to need a little healthy impatience to create an uncharted value."

But is that really news? Bakers know their customers as well as anyone, know what they want, and know how they respond to new products. But the impatience Harari is talking about isn't limited to products. It involves reinventing the business as a whole in order to 'break from the pack.'

There are two words on the lips of virtually everyone I've spoken to so far here in Atlanta, from educational track and show floor to the bars and restaurants in the evenings. Words that ostensibly have nothing to do with dairy, deli, or bakery. Everyone's talking about Facebook and Twitter.

The real value of those current kings of online social networking isn't in their promotional capacity, or anything specific, measurable, tangible. Their value is in the fact that, almost invariably, your customers are there. They are there, using those sites, so you should have a presence there, too.

Harari used the example of the recent Obama campaign. Two million users created over 35 thousand individual, real life events and raised untold dollars, with no direct prompting by the campaign. And the campaign was able to do this at a cost to them of one skilled Web design team.

Harari points out that markets emerge organically, simply because people have been given the tools to do so. Staying ahead of the pack means being willing to take some calculated risks, be willing to innovate beyond new product development.

For more articles on in-store baking and the baking industry as a whole, check Modern Baking and Baking Management.