ABA’s new resource for small baker members is up and running.
The Bakers’ Forum, an initiative announced in April 2023, has now held its first two meetings with participants. The first meeting was a virtual meet-and-greet of members. The second kicked off a guest series featuring baking industry experts by welcoming Bakery de France’s Executive Vice President Nadine Salameh.
“Smaller bakers represent a growing part of ABA’s membership,” said Ben Simpson, ABA’s Director of Membership. “Many of these participants are entrepreneurs who haven’t run baking production businesses before. Their biggest priorities include learning how to navigate the baking industry landscape, finding distribution and supplier partners, and understanding the operational hurdles to growing their businesses.”
Size of These Companies
The Forum is geared to ABA baker members whose gross receipts of baked goods and mixes total $25 million/year or less. The focus is on helping these companies operate their small businesses in the commercial baking industry. ABA saw an opening to create a special solution for this segment of its community.
Setting Initial Plans
ABA and Forum members have discussed initial plans for this new community, which include the following:
- Holding quarterly virtual meetings.
- Meeting in person alongside key events when the opportunities arise.
- Making use of ABA’s management software to drive a moderated online community.
- Benefitting from periodic educational presentations by suppliers and other industry stakeholders on topics of interest to this community.
Information Sharing a Big Benefit
Kasondra Shippen, General Manager at Flax4Life, a family-owned and operated bakery based in the state of Washington, said the Forum is an innovative idea that will help smaller companies exchange information and learn from each other.
Flax4Life is one of the inaugural members of the Forum. While Flax4Life is not a new company in the baking industry, unlike some of the other Bakers’ Forum members, Shippen said her company and the other participants can learn by networking and sharing.
“We can ask questions such as, ‘How did you work through a specific operational challenge? What are you doing about a regulation in a certain state?’ Without good recommendations we might spend time focusing in the wrong direction. The openness to sharing is key.”
Unique Needs of Smaller Bakers
Shippen said smaller bakeries lack scale and need input on how to navigate in a highly competitive business, because often the bigger companies have certain advantages.
“There are major differences in volume and buying power for smaller companies, compared to larger ones,” she said.
She added that the opportunity to hear from suppliers will be helpful for the growth of her business.
Expanding the ABA Industry Community
The Bakers’ Forum will help to encourage smaller bakers to engage with other members of ABA.
“We have grown our baker membership by over 50% in the last four years by diversifying the types of bakeries that participate in ABA,” noted Jennifer Colfelt, ABA’s Vice President of Operation and Membership. “The Forum is a great opportunity for these smaller bakers to become more active in the industry and understand the resources available to them through the ABA community.”
Bakers interested in joining The Bakers’ Forum should contact ABA’s Membership team or visit www.americanbakers.org/membership.