I’ve been to a lot of trade shows in my time but there’s something about Bakery Congress and Bakery Showcase that’s special. Bakers and pastry chefs, along with all sorts of companies and allied tradespeople, come from all across Canada and the United States, and even farther afield, to attend.
They come to sell, of course, but also to network and learn. And whether they realize it or not, they also come to play their part in building the sense of community around an extremely diverse industry that’s becoming increasingly fragmented as consumers seek specialized foods that meet rapidly changing ideas about diet and nutrition.
I’ve spent the bulk of my career writing for both trade and consumer magazines, most of which have been focused on business, and one trend I’ve noticed recently involves the term “community.” Today, many entrepreneurs and startups aren’t aiming to get as much buck for their bang right out of the gate. Oftentimes, they’re content to break even, or even operate at a loss, while they build a community around the product or service they’re offering.
For examples, look no further than Silicon Valley sensations like Twitter and Amazon. These two companies, despite all of their success and name-brand recognition, have been notoriously slow to become highly profitable – much to the frustration of investors. But when you look at the way in which Amazon’s tendrils have crept into all aspects of our lives – video streaming, e-books and e-readers, drone technology, and on-demand grocery delivery, just to name a few of its many ventures – it becomes clear that the company is playing the long game. Likewise with Twitter. It might not have diversified as much as Amazon – and it’s definitely not enriching investors as much as the online retail giant is – but it’s surpassed all competitors as the go-to tool for breaking news, and it’s even the U.S. president’s favourite way to communicate. You can’t buy better publicity than that.
Events like Bakery Congress are a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the sense of community that envelopes the baking industry. You can talk to other people in the industry and find out what’s working for them when it comes to building an audience for their products. You can look at how products and services are being packaged and presented. You can attend seminars and other learning opportunities that will help you stay ahead of changing trends and tastes. Most importantly, you can road test the story of your business, the narrative that can help you build a loyal following.
According to the Baking Association of Canada, the organizer of Bakery Congress, 28.7 per cent of Bakery Congress attendees are company owners, partners or presidents. These are the visionary folks who take the long view of their businesses – in other words, the people you want to get to know if you’re in the business of building a community of consumers for your product or service that will sustain your enterprise in the months and years to come. And in today’s constantly evolving business environment, that’s a community that should include all of us.
Happy reading and baking,