Rob MacKie, President and CEO of American Bakers Association (ABA) speaks to Kiran Grewal about bringing his experience and knowledge of policy to promote and protect the interests of businesses in the baking sector.
Could you give us some background on ABA and what it aims to achieve for its members?
Founded nearly 125 years ago, the American Bakers Association (ABA) is the voice of the baking industry. We serve members from global wholesale baking companies and suppliers to baking industry entrepreneurs. ABA is the only bakery-specific national and state trade association, delivering results on priorities affecting the companies that feed the world. Importantly, we offer an International Membership and have members on six continents (sorry, Antarctica).
We work to increase protection from costly government actions, build the talent pool of skilled workers with specialised training programs, and forge industry alignment by establishing a more receptive environment to grow the baking industry. ABA’s membership has grown to represent more than 300 companies with a combined 1600+ facilities.
What is impacting the bakery market right now? How has the association developed its offering to account for it?
The number one issue facing the baking industry, which the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated, is the urgent need to recruit and retain employees. ABA’s professional development offerings include an array of recruitment tools in addition to a robust virtual educational portfolio built specifically for our sector.
Thousands of baking industry careers are available at ABA’s BakingWorks.org. This industry careers site offers a library of career development and resume-building tools as well as access to thousands of job and internship opportunities and the ability for candidates to upload resumes so hiring managers can contact them directly. ABA members receive special rates for posting their available jobs for thousands of monthly website visitors to see.
ABA worked with industry human resources experts to help illustrate the baking industry’s many opportunities by creating a career path guide to communicate how potential and existing workers can grow their careers.
We have also developed various marketing tools, such as videos, testimonials, and handouts to help our members with messaging the many benefits of working in this noble industry.
On the workforce retention side, our Bakers Manufacturing Academy’s best-in-class training solutions provide industry-specific, technical education for bakery production employees, whether they are new to the profession or growing in their careers. A number of our courses are available in English, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese, with more languages and courses coming soon.
The Bakers Manufacturing Academy’s online training offers a variety of courses for all knowledge and experience levels. Through the Academy, companies have an effective, convenient, and affordable way to enhance workforce training and development. Written and developed by baking industry experts, the online learning portal offers students dynamic, interactive instruction, and offers training managers simple student registration, documentation, and progress.
What kinds of regulations and legislation from federal and state government disproportionally affect the bakery market and ABA Members? What solutions are there to this?
The baking industry faces several complex issues. From workforce challenges to commodity volatility within an uncertain and sometimes explosive legislative and regulatory landscape, ABA’s critical work on key issues effectively leads to positive change on behalf of the baking industry.
As one of the top users of key ingredient commodities such as wheat and sugar, small shifts in markets can have huge financial impacts on ABA members. Volatility within commodities markets has dramatically increased since the start of the 21st century.
The Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA) established sweeping reform to federal food safety laws. As regulatory proposals on these issues are published, ABA works with our members to develop consensus policy positions to respond to the agency as well as cost-effective strategies for bakers to implement food safety requirements.
ABA members and the baking supply chain have one of the largest trucking fleets in the country, constantly supplying America’s families with baked goods. ABA makes targeted advocacy efforts tackling pressing issues facing bakery supply chain logistics.
ABA not only leads the baking industry in the development of innovative policy encouraging enhanced public health through the consumption of our wholesome products, but we also lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-regulated industry’s Food and Beverage Issue Alliance (FBIA) in dialogue with senior officials at government agencies including FDA, United States Development of Agriculture (USDA), and the Centres for Disease Control (CDC).
Throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency, ABA has continued to build strong partnerships and strives to gain regulatory flexibility to keep bakers operational and efficient as they produce products to keep America’s grocery store shelves stocked. Outside of the pandemic, ABA works with its members through proactive efforts to develop positive outcomes on nutrition policy such as the USDA/Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for Americans, FDA Nutrition Innovation Strategy elements and USDA Bioengineered Disclosure rule.
Wholesale bakeries offer endless career opportunities to its workforce and ABA works to ensure those opportunities are not taken away by burdensome and unworkable policies and overbearing government mandates. ABA advocates on behalf of bakery employees and employers to ensure sound legislative and regulatory policies that provide a safe and healthy workplace, enhance job creation and innovation.
What do you see for the future of ABA and the American bakery market?
In 2022, we have a big year ahead of us as we continue to grapple with the challenges of the past few years. We have a yearlong celebration of bakery, kicking off with ABA’s 125th anniversary at ABA’s Convention in Palm Springs, California.
The celebration continues as ABA joins our domestic partner organisations, the Baking Equipment Manufacturers & Allieds (BEMA) and the Retail Bakers Association, to host the International Baking Industry Exposition, also known as IBIE, in Las Vegas, Nevada from September 17-21, 2022.
Held every three years, our 2019 event saw more than 23,000 attendees from 100+ countries. In fact, 30% of registrants hailed from outside of the United States. Special offers to attend IBIE 2022 are available for international delegations. Benefits may include discounted registration fees for delegation members, complimentary passes and hotel accommodation for delegation leaders, among other show benefits.
These gatherings will be celebrations for the industry and ways for us to physically be together for the first time, on a large scale, in years. We look forward to being a part of it and seeing everyone again soon.
Image credit: ABA
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Editor, International Bakery
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