The 2017 ABA Convention featured our most thought-provoking and provocative program yet, centered around the enormous disruptions impacting the baking industry. The program began with “Fresh Take Talks” presented by the Grain Foods Foundation featuring quick, informative presentations from the Editor in Chief of The Daily Beast John Avlon, and food thought leader Eve Turow Paul addressing the challenge of authentically connecting and communicating with today’s consumers.
The “Disruption – Business as Unusual” panel kept attendees engaged with its examination of the extremely fluid marketplace and consumer perspectives. During this eye-opening discussion, the panel offered strategies of how to succeed in increasingly turbulent times and perspectives on the demise of category management for retailers. Coming out of the ABA Convention, the industry had a much clearer idea about the challenges ahead and the potential opportunities to grow both individually and as an industry.
Amidst these disruption discussions, ABA quietly began a strategic planning process that could potentially transform ABA and the baking industry. The focus of the process will be to explore closer alignment with the industry’s core customers while seeking out new sales channels. It also will look at how to better promote the industry and its products to a multi-dimensional consumer population.
Under the rubric that timing is everything or that it is better to be lucky than good, the prescience of the ABA leadership was validated by the recent announcement that Amazon is acquiring Whole Foods. What was brewing below the radar has now exploded into the public consciousness. Much has been written about the impact this merger will have on the American consuming public and those in retail, however none more insightful than the Rabobank analysis and the Harvard Business Review article. With very clear vision, they dissect what is likely to happen and what is hyperbole, particularly as it pertains to food and baking. One thing is clear: it is a game-changing event in retail and the pace of disruption has just accelerated.
ABA will continue to work closely with its members’ core customers in retail and foodservice, while also exploring opportunities for emerging sales channels that could drive overall category growth. Requests for the data and information presented at the 2017 ABA Convention have grown dramatically in the past few weeks. For bakers looking to refresh or learn more, this would be a good starting point.
Only time will tell whether the “It’s a Wonderful Life” analogy – that there’s a bright future in plastics – or the “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” analogy – that we’re not dead yet – is more appropriate. Betty Davis captured it best in “All About Eve” – “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”