Bakers Journal

Bakery Showcase 2023: Exploring consumer trends, successful entrepreneurs and sustainability in the baking industry

August 25, 2023
By Colleen Cross

Bakery Showcase Vancouver served as a key hub for the baking industry

Pastry chef Aron Weber, department head at VIU, shares his insights and experiences keeping bees. PHOTOS: BAKERS JOURNAL

Vancouver Bakery Showcase calls to mind the lyrics from the song “Together” in the musical Gypsy:“Wherever we go, whatever we do,/We’re gonna go through it together.”

Together we learned so much about what consumers are looking for in their local bakery, how bakeries are showing leadership in sustainability and where the bakery industry is heading.

More than 1,400 attendees and more than 175 exhibitor booths filled the aisles of the Baking Association of Canada’s Bakery Showcase Vancouver in May, the first hosted in the city since 2017. From the diverse education sessions to the busy trade show floor to the exciting demonstration and competition areas, attendees had no shortage of ways to connect, learn and be inspired.

The event kicked off with a well-attended BAC annual general meeting in which the board executive outlined ambitious plans for membership expansion and government advocacy. Watch the BAC Bulletins, become a member and follow @bacnational on social media to keep up to date on the important work the association is doing on your behalf.

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From education sessions and demonstrations key themes emerged.

Celebrating women in baking

An in-depth conversation with Zoya Thawer, finalist on the Great Canadian Baking Show, revealed how the practising doctor handled baking competitively and brought her East African roots, a touch of India and family traditions – learned from her mother, also attending – to her baking. One of her favourite ingredients to use is poppyseed, as used in her brown butter and white poppyseed friands with marmalade glaze and poppyseed bark.

Fans of the GCBS had the perfect chance to meet respected chef, author and television star Bruno Feldeisen at the BAC’s booth where Feldeisen signed books and chatted with bakers. Chef Bruno also helped judge our Mother’s Day Celebration Student Cake-Decorating Competition, sponsored by Dawn.

Showcase opened on Mother’s Day and we leaned into the theme with two excellent panels, Women in Baking brought to you by Ardent Mills and Women in Pizza: Canada Edition! Successful entrepreneurs talked motivation, challenges overcome, the importance of mentorship and professional achievements.

The Women in Baking panel hosted by Elaine O’Doherty, marketing lead for panel sponsors Ardent Mills Canada, brought together Mary Mackay, vice-president innovation and production of product development for Terra Foods Inc., Vancouver; Babette Kourelos, cookbook author and owner of Babette’s Bread, Langley, B.C.; and Tracey Muzzolini, co-owner of Christies Bakery, Saskatoon. Muzzolini highlighted what qualities make a strong and respected baker, team member or entrepreneur in the industry. McKay, a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, described how the non-profit champions women in the food, beverage and hospitality industries. Kourelos encouraged entrepreneurs: “Do not be afraid to reach out to other women in the industry. Most of the time, you will be met with friendly, positive and generous responses. Make it clear that you want to grow and learn, and you are guaranteed to find an army of women willing to help you, guide you and walk some (or all) of the way with you. And when someone reaches out to you – make sure to return the favour and pay it forward.”

Tracey Muzzolini, co-owner of Christies Bakery in Saskatoon, commented, “I really enjoyed being on the panel and listening to Mary’s and Babette’s perspectives! I attended some of the other panels and they were all really interesting and informative! My mom and I loved our trip to Vancouver as well, including the boat ride!”

Mary Mackay of Terra Foods Inc., Babette Kourelos, of Babette’s Bread, Tracey and Janet Muzzolini of Christies Bakery visit after sharing their stories of entrepreneurship in a lively panel.
PHOTO: BAKERS JOURNAL

Sourdough in the spotlight

Puratos led a valuable and well-attended session on global trends in sourdough. Jan Willem Groen, product manager for Sapore Sourdoughs at Puratos, emphasized there is so much more to sourdough than the “San Francisco sour-sourdough” associated with the term. “There are sourdoughs out there specifically made for brioche, steam buns, Japanese emperor buns,” Groen said. “It’s a world of creativity.”

In a stimulating conversation with Karen Bornarth of the Bread Bakers Guild of America, Groen said the trend in Europe these days is to use sourdough in less traditional applications. In Italy for example, some bakers use sourdough to make panettone. Groen also identified other new trends, including sourdough croissants. “You might be wondering, what is the role of sourdough in a croissant? It’s not to bring a big acidic flavour. The flavour is still buttery and what you would expect from a croissant. First of all, it’s more authentic, it’s a slower recipe, so consumers are already aware that there’s more effort put into the dough. When you taste a croissant made with sourdough, you have the feeling you could eat two of them. It’s a bit like the principle of having lemon with schnitzel or fried fish – putting acid on the fat makes it seem more fresh. You could compare that with putting sourdough in your croissant – it brings the freshness.”

Technical advisors Michael Ranaudo and Tony Amaro demonstrated how to incorporate Puratos’ newest whole-wheat sourdough (Sapore Leo) into a delicious whole-grain bread and other ways Puratos incorporates sourdough into their products to bring differentiation, health, taste and freshness.

Sustainable bakeries

During the session “What Does a Sustainable Bakery Business Look Like – and How Do You Get There?” the audience learned from Michelle Reid of B Corp what’s involved in pursuing certification and what it can mean for their bakeries, from driving business decisions toward balance and financial success to helping make you an employer of choice. Matt Cimon, president of Portofino Bakery and co-founder of Bond Bakery Brands, shared his experiences in becoming certified:

“Over the past couple years, we’ve done a number of things that you could call sustainable and eco-conscious and better for the environment. We’ve reduced our waste in our product returns, which was a massive area of focus for us, we’ve cut it by over half in the past 18 months, we’ve reduced our reliance on poly that we’re using in our packaging, we’ve started monitoring, what are things that we think are important like waste, and greenhouse emissions information that wasn’t even on our radar years ago. . . . But I think the biggest change that we’ve done is actually how we approach it. . . . We recognized that we don’t know what we don’t know. There’s a lot of information out there. There are a lot of implications. So, similar to what we do for our food safety programs and some other initiatives, we brought in experts.”

Sylvestre Awono inspired bakers with his message of responsible ingredient sourcing. Awono is global business development manager of Cacao-Trace, the Puratos sustainability program that creates and shares value among chocolate chain stakeholders, and especially cocoa farmers, to improve their living conditions. Awono shared moving case studies of lives improved and led attendees through a tasting of sustainable chocolate products.

Staffing your bakery

Keynote speaker Mark Dyck, Rise Up Bakers podcaster, coach and founder of Bakers4Bakers.org forum, taught bakers, owners and operators a simple framework for finding the best stories to tell and the best place to tell them. “You opened your bakery or pizzeria because you wanted to build something special,” he said. How do you get your message out to customers who want to hear it? Dyck shared key techniques to help bakers tell better stories about their bakery and a simple framework for finding the best stories to tell and the best place to tell them.

Anastasia French of Living Wage for Families BC walked attendees through the steps involved in becoming a living wage employer and provided concrete examples of businesses who have made the transition. While not the easiest process to make in today’s economy, benefits include good publicity, improved morale, and the chance to live your values, recruit staff and lower turnover rate. French also noted it’s not an “all-or-nothing” proposition: even if you cannot maintain the commitment, you are welcomed back once you’re able to re-commit.

Karen Bornarth, executive director of the Bread Bakers Guild of America, gave a powerful talk outlining four important operational choices that put bakeries in a position to provide “good jobs”: focus and simplify, standardize and empower, cross-train and operate with slack. On the last choice, Bornarth recommended, “Have more labour hours on hand than what the workload requires to meet peak customer demand and give employees time to perform well and engage in improvement.” Bornarth, who has given many talks on the subject, urged owners to invest in high performance standards, ongoing training, professional development, career pathways, predictable schedules and fair pay.

Keynote speaker Mark Dyck (left) and Anastasia French of Living Wage BC have an in-depth conversation with bakers post session.

Innovation in action

Baking professionals picked up techniques and ideas for their own baking from the skilled instructors at Vancouver Community College and Vancouver Island University. VCC’s Leanne Bentley took bakers on a journey with trending, no-fuss travel cakes, Nav Sidhu focused on the elegant galette and Mark Burton shared his sourdough wisdom. On Monday, VIU’s Aron Weber shared his insights and experience keeping bees as a pastry chef and Ken Harper told the story of how students helped make a custom chocolate using Cacao Barry called Or Noir and provided delicious samples. VIU colleague David Nolan demonstrated bi-colour lamination by making Rose and Strawberry Croissants.

New this year, the exciting Canadian Pizza Summit and Chef of the Year Competitions co-located with Bakery Showcase. A new Chef of the Year West, Giuseppe Cortinovis of Vancouver, was selected by expert judges. Cortinovis’ winning “Nostalgia” pizza featured dough made using a combination of biga and autolysis. The innovative chef added a layer of aged parmesan cream and tomato confit before baking and topped the pizza with stracciatella cheese and arugula pesto made with sunflower seeds.

Thank you to our sponsoring partners, AB Mauri, Ardent Mills, Bakemark, Caldic, Dawn Foods, EM Bakery Equipment, FCC, Fritsch Multivac, Lallemand and Puratos for supporting this key industry learning and networking event. And thank you to all presenters, attendees and exhibitors for bringing your energy and ideas to the West Coast!

Our next Bakery Showcase is set for May 5-6, 2024, in Toronto! Save the date! Registration opens in the fall at bakeryshowcase.com.


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