INTERNATIONAL BAKING INDUSTRY EXPOSITION 26-29 SEPTEMBER 2010, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
This is a truly awesome exposition! The down side, as I mentioned to Robb MacKie, President and CEO of the American Bakers Association, that one has to wait three years for the next exposition. After spending three days walking through this huge show we will understood why this is not done annually! I have cooked, baked, and washed dishes since early High School, through College, and then continued cooking at home. This expo told me I knew nothing about cooking or baking! There was so much to learn, and so much more afterwards, that encapsulating it into an article is impossible. However, the impossible we do today, the possible was done yesterday.
In general, I try to emphasize those products that shall prove of value to the Senior population. While the entire baking segment, as opposed to the production segment, is moving toward healthy and green products some stood out above the rest.
Anne and I were privileged to attend the World Chocolate Masters program at the start of the convention. There I learned about how healthy dark chocolate is! Callebaut Chocolates (a vast empire consisting of so much more than the simple chocolate chips we have used for making cookies) has chocolate with probiotics. Rather than explain what that is, let me just emphasize that it makes the dark chocolate healthier by improving digestion. In this, as in other areas, Google helps a lot! I have asked for more information from the company so may be smarter soon. Probiotics may be available in other products also, but for a chocaholic, this is good enough!
When my children were younger, we became familiar with the Chia. Who knew that these seeds, and flour, when used with flour, as a topping for other foods, or just mixed in has a whole slew of health benefits? Instead of watching the Chia grow, we should have eaten it.
Folgers coffee and Chock Full O Nuts used to be the kingpins of coffee in the household. Now there are more brands, types, etc. than one can list. The same is happening to flour. However, first a minor digression. King Arthur Flour has been the product of choice in our household for many years. This employee owned company has been in business since the start of this country (or so it seems). Their products are wonderful. They both produce as well as act as a middleman for a whole range of baking products. In addition, their school has proven to be a training ground for both home and professional bakers. Many of the Master Bakers that I met at the Exposition have spent time either learning or teaching at KA. Actually, while my wife and I were at the expo, our daughter was taking classes at KA in Vermont!
The latest healthy flour that was shown is Peanut Flower from Protein Plus. This flour is high in protein, low in fat, Kosher, and above all Gluten Free. It is also good mixed with hamburger meat! Garbanzo flour was another product that is healthy as well as great tasting. (Did I mention that there were samples everywhere?) The garbanzo flour is Gluten Free, low in cholesterol, high in calcium and much more. Bakers Elements also carries Amaranth Flour —know nothing about it but would love to try it. A niche company that is expanding is Giusto’s Vita-Grain. Again, they carry in addition to the regular (and known) types of flour a long line of flour not found in the regular grocery chains. I shall have to visit a health food store (or Whole Foods) and see what choices they offer. Flour related products took up quite a bit of the floor space at the expo; a discussion of the machines used in production (and taking up more floor space) will come in part II.
For a confirmed chocaholic, there were several other exhibitors other than Callebaut. At the top of that list is on old favorite: E. Guittard. At their booth they had at least 25-30 different types of chocolate chips alone. In addition were displays of the rest of their variety of products. I tried pilfering the syrup (which came in three types at least) but was talked out of doing that. Both companies have outstanding, quality chocolate. We also had a chance to chat (in German) with reps from Kakoa Verarbeitung Berlin. Chocolate from Berlin? Who knew that could be great tasting also. In search for more healthy chocolate we visited the French Gourmet. This company, in addition to healthy, and less healthy, chocolate had a wide assortment of products imported from Europe. We found muffin mixes, vanilla, but best of all: Italian Gelato. Not only did they have the mix, but they also had a tasting area which could sell the product to the most hardened buyer. We had to go back to confirm how excellent it is.
I visited the Nielsen-Massey booth as their simple Vanilla has been used by me for many years. Now I learned just how many types of vanilla there are, and what the differences they make in the finished product. While Mexico may be best known (vanilla originated there) Indonesia, India, and even the United States now produce much of the bean. In expanding the vanilla market a vanilla body scrub is being produced for us health interested people.
On the non-diet, health food side was a marvelous use of computer technology. We can now produce an edible picture of one’s child, loved one using edible ink on a printer! It is just one more way to improve business and make a customer happy. All one needs to do is sign up Kopykake!
For me the most amazing piece of equipment was the multitwist machine made by the German company Fritsch. While the machine can produce a variety of twists, the most popular feature was the ability to produce about 2000 pretzels of varying sizes in one hour! Put the mixture in at the top, and a pretzel comes out at rapid speed. They still need baking — about 400 degrees for 6-9 minutes depending on size. And they tasted great!
Much more could be written as there are companies that produce products like dried fruit, greater enhancers for breads and cakes, as well as a product that allows you to place frozen dough in an envelope and a few minutes later a loaf of bread comes out of the oven. The company is Zenith Specialty Bag Company and I received a sample to try. What could be easier? They have been in business producing specialty bags for a broad range of products for 60 years and are another example of a large family owned company.
Before moving to Part II, namely the awesome equipment, two names need to be mentioned. The first is a family owned business for three generations that has continued to expand as demand has required it to. DAWN FOODS PRODUCTS INC. This company started out with a donut bakery, and is now a full service, full line producer of baked goods. There are other companies that have maintained family control, but Dawn is just a great example.
The Bread Bakers Guild of America produces an awesome quarterly newsletter “Bread Lines” that is must reading for anyone seriously interested in bread. Becoming a Guild member has other benefits and it appears that all of the top bakers are members. The Guild welcomes serious bakers, millers, suppliers, educators bakery owners and managers. High quality bread is the name of the game. Like with coffee, we have moved from the basic product to artisan breads!
It is a small leap from the broad range of breads and bakery products produced to the machines that make it all possible. The equipment displayed showed quite dramatically the broad range of jobs that have been moved from hand production to machine production. Bread, rolls, muffins, etc. are now poured in mass quantities, rather than hand produced. Robotics, technology, science (chemistry, etc.) have allowed mass production to actually come close, and sometimes surpass the work of the artisan baker. Perhaps similar, in some ways, to the world of computers, these allied sciences have not only helped mass production produce quality products but have also helped the home baker produce better cakes and breads. Andrew Roberts produces a non-stick baking sheet that can be reused many times. This is a huge help for the home baker as well as the artisan baker. This company has worked to produce tape that does not disintegrate while used in baking and has helped the industry make a better product. The home baker also comes out ahead, and at a cost saving as the product is re-usable. There are other companies, but Bedford produces a product we are all familiar with: the twist we find at the end of a loaf of bread, donuts, and related products. Their polytwist is now produced without any metal which makes it green (environmentally sustainable). Kwik Lok is another company producing a similar line with snap on ties, bags that keep coffee fresher, and so on. At the other extreme are a broad range of companies that do the entire job: mixing the dough, sending it through a series of machines until the cookies, cupcakes, bread, rolls or comes out at the other end ready to eat (and they taste great too!). Genpak is a company that, among other products, has come out with a full line of green storage containers, drinking cups and oven ready trays that fulfill their pledge of being a green company. While Bettendorf Stanford manufactures a line of other products I was fascinated by the broad range of slicer blades. Every home baker knows that having a good knife is critical to cooking or baking. These blades are doing the same job we expect at home.
It would be easy to continue, but let me close by saying that the home baker has profited immensely by the huge advances in this industry. We have a broader range of supplies available, better equipment to bake and cook with, and extremely knowledgeable staff working in these companies. On a purely personal level: my daughter is now producing at home outstanding artisan bread products. She has been helped by the companies making better products, equipment, and providing classes.
My deep thanks go to staff for setting up a great show. Equally appreciated were the personnel manning the booths and their willingness to share information with an amateur.
John Lustig, Senior Reporter
Anne Leona, Senior Reporter