Even in the worst of times, bread and water appear to fill some voids. In the best of times, we hear, “Let them eat cake!”. The folks who professionally manufacture breads, dinner rolls, cookies, pastries, cake and other baked goods gathered last week for IBIE, the International Baking Industry Expo, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The event is held once every three years.
IBIE Chairman Mike Beaty has said the event is “a buying show” with opportunities to make deals for everything from designing a new food plant to buying a spray that makes baked good more appealing. In between, all varieties of baking equipment, from gigantic sifters and mixers to conveyor belts and machines to apply twist ties, were on display.
As I mention in the attached video, preparation of food samples was also part of the show. One exhibiting company, Abel & Schafer, Inc., borrowed the Caesars Palace bakery kitchen to make up all their bread samples for the show.
Other exhibitors must have brought samples from home because, sadly, they weren’t all fresh and delicious – and I tried many of them. I did love a peanut butter and jelly mini-sandwich offered by a division of Dupont. Yes, their ingredients to preserve freshness sounded a bit technical, but the ingredients did the trick – their sandwich was delicious AND fresh.
Because I am not a baker of much beside large chocolate chip cookies at holiday time, I had a lot to learn in attending this show, and frankly, I still have a lot to learn. While waiting for the show to open, I talked with Sunil Maheshwari of Siemer Specialty Ingredients in Teutopolis, IL. His company is a manufacturer of heat-treated wheat flour, bran and germ. He told me he was a milling specialist, educated in India, who worked in Kenya and Canada before coming to Siemer 11 years ago. His company mills 15 to 20 different flours depending on customer needs. He mentioned that Duncan Hines products and even Girl Scout Cookies contain his company’s flour. He said exhibiting in the show is principally an opportunity to network with existing customers, but new business wouldn’t be turned away either. Did I know that more than two or three kinds of flour existed? No, but I do now.
Another pre-show conversation was with Ross Brown, Director, Technical Services, of Tastemorr Snacks in British Columbia, Canada. He was attending the show to see the latest in bakery equipment. His company makes specialty chips and rice cakes. The Kroger brand of pita chips are made by his company.
Robert Meyer, Director of Technical Services for Dakota Specialty Milling, a supplier of custom-milled whole grain blends, told me that among trends in their business are gluten-free products. He directed me to the Wheat Food Council website where an NPR article talked at length about the theories behind the rise in celiac disease and the popularity of gluten-free foods.
ConAgra Mills distributed a brochure touting the popularity of ancient grain flours such as amareth, millet, quinoa, sorghum and teff. (After I learn Spanish, a project on my to-do list for 20 years, I will attempt to memorize the definitions of all these grains. Thank goodness, experts exist who do know all the differences.)
Speaking of Spanish, the educational sessions at IBIE featured a number of classes conducted in Spanish, and I don’t believe I’ve seen that in other conventions. I understand the reasoning, however, with so many Hispanics working in the nation’s kitchens. Among the Spanish classes were, “The Best Practices of Breadmaking as a Tool to Improve Quality and Profitability of Your Business.”
A total of 75 educational sessions were offered in conjunction with IBIE. Other classes included “Pizza and Bakeries: The Hidden Link to Profit”, “Legislative and Regulatory Issues and Trends” and Introduction to Fondant Decorations for Your Bakery”.
Candidly, I had never heard of fondant until I watched the TV reality show, “Cake Boss”. Buddy Valastro, star of the show, uses lots of fondant, a kind of sweet, creamy paste used in preparing and decorating cakes, pastries and confections. Valastro was scheduled for several IBIE appearances at the Dawn Food Products Inc. exhibit, but alas my schedule and his didn’t jibe. However, in addition to Valastro having a line of Cake Boss products in supermarkets, he is opening a new restaurant in Las Vegas at The Venetian.
Maybe I’ll just drop in and say hello (and I will have dessert).