Business and Operations
Editor’s Letter: January-February 2018
A toast to trust
By Laura Aiken
Clink! Happy New Year to all our bakery industry readers, a crew I predict is blissfully bushed from the holiday madness. A year behind, a year ahead. The news cycle sure closed with a bang as Loblaws/George Weston admitted to participating in a long running bread price fixing scheme in December.
Class action lawsuits are underway, as are investigations into other grocery and industrial bakery companies. Weston wasn’t the only industrial bakery under fire last year. Fiera Foods found its way into the pages of a Toronto Star investigation after a temporary employee died in its plant, and then again after becoming embroiled in an expansion issue over city permits.
For a public already growing distrustful of big business, these news stories confirm fears. As we all know, broken trust can be about as easy to put back together as dandelion tufts scattered in the wind. There are numerous trends that apply to bakers for 2018, as there is never a shortage of divining lists, but the biggest one for the industry to take stock of is transparency.
Transparency means a lot of things: labelling, corporate practices, ingredient sourcing…but what it really is coming down to at this point is zero omissions. Not telling can be tantamount to lying. This sentiment is a core driver of commercial open kitchens.
What a tricky relationship it has become; the bakery and its clients. Trust is a funny thing, for asking someone to be completely transparent and accountable outwardly in their every move may inherently presume they are potentially untrustworthy and should constantly show their hand. It is as if food companies are being treated as unfaithful lovers, ones who must put their full communications and agenda on display if they are to be trusted again.
Why food companies are caught in such a tempestuous relationship with their public? People want to trust food, and they did more so than they do now. People rely on food for nourishment and pleasure; it is one of the great mind-body connections.
Yet humanity also places a tremendous value on money. There doesn’t seem to be the same movement to demand to know the inner workings of credit card risk management in a bank, or whether you might be getting ripped off. People kind of presume the bank might be fleecing them off in some fashion by complaining about monthly fees, or high interest rates or other bank powers that feel hostage like. Who hasn’t gone to an ATM from a bank other than your own and winced at the fees, cursing them like thieves. Insurance companies companies are no different. They provide good services, but there is much recognized ill at ease over whether they are “good guys”.
No one is demanding these industries out themselves and their practices like there are food. Scandals involving food seem a tremendous betrayal to its customers. People accept the narcissistic practices of the banks and insurance companies that we are all depend on, but less so when that self-interest involves their food. If there is a soul, food touches it in a way money cannot and cuts straight to the heart. Perhaps mothers and fathers feed their children and those children grow up and look to the parents of food business as surrogates to nourish them akin. Or perhaps that is far-fetched, I leave that determination with you. It is truly a great responsibility to be in the food business, and now one in which understanding what transparency means to your customers will play a major role in shaping the future’s leading bakeries.