Editor’s Letter: June 2009
By Brian Hartz
I’ve been to a lot of trade shows recently, and it seems bakeries and
the industries that supply them are busier than ever trying to sell,
sell, sell. They’re working hard in this economy to get new clients and
keep the ones they have. That’s an encouraging sign that points not
only to the resilience of the industry, but also the dedication of the
people who drive it to become bigger and better.
I’ve been to a lot of trade shows recently, and it seems bakeries and the industries that supply them are busier than ever trying to sell, sell, sell. They’re working hard in this economy to get new clients and keep the ones they have. That’s an encouraging sign that points not only to the resilience of the industry, but also the dedication of the people who drive it to become bigger and better.
In mid-May, baked goods giant George Weston Ltd., buoyed by a first-quarter profit of $863 million, announced it was on the lookout for “huge opportunities” despite the slumping economy that has put the kibosh on many companies’ ability, or willingness, to endure short-term pain for the sake of long-term growth. The headline of the Canadian Press story about Weston’s financial report used the phrase “hungry to grow,” and while execs understandably kept mum about the company’s plans to expand, this bit of sunshine was an inspiring attention-getter in what has otherwise been a gloomy stretch of economic news. Meanwhile, across the pond, Greggs Plc, the U.K.’s largest bakery chain, said in January that it intends to capitalize on Britain’s first recession in 17 years by snapping up vacated stores so it can add new outlets.
Granted, we can’t all be huge, resource-laden companies like Weston or Greggs, but whether you’re big, medium or small, a recession is no excuse not to look for growth opportunities. Businesses, even ones in the so-called “recession-proof” food industry, can’t afford to stand still right now, waiting passively for a turnaround. A recession can be a great time to expand, rather than contract or tread water, as less-prepared competitors fall by the wayside or downsize. This could mean physical growth such as acquiring new facilities or equipment, or market-share growth through advertising and public relations.
If you’re a small retail baker and you buy a new piece of equipment, renovate or expand your shop, hire a new employee, or add a new product or service to your store, let your customers know. Hold an open house, use a banner to announce your news, extend your business hours for a week or two, offer facility tours, give freebies away to kids and families – anything to get people through the doors.
That’s the kind of mindset that will help you get through these tough times.
If you need more ideas, try consulting your fellow Baking Association of Canada members. Whether you attended this year or not, please join me in congratulating the BAC on its superb Congress 2009 in Burnaby, B.C. It was a pleasure to see the baking industry come together to do business, make and renew connections, learn about new ideas and products, and have a great time in beautiful Vancouver. From the dinner cruise of the city’s waterfront to the evening with Michael “Pinball” Clemons – and, of course, the trade show, wedding cake competition, new product showcase and other business functions held at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre – it was an outstanding event from start to finish.
Last but not least, don’t forget about the annual Bakers Journal recipe collection, which will be packaged with our August/September issue and whose theme is “Classic Canadian Comfort.” We’re soliciting recipes for comfort foods, snacks and desserts such as cookies, muffins, bars, pies, cakes, etc. – but all contributions will be considered. If, like Weston, you are “hungry to grow,” this is a great – and free – way to promote your bakery, so e-mail those recipe ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.