Jorge Zarate is the global senior vice president of operations and engineering at Grupo Bimbo, Mexico City, and vice chairman of the International Baking Industry Expo (IBIE) 2022. He has been working in the baking industry for nearly 35 years, entirely with Grupo Bimbo. His first IBIE was in 2001, and he has served on the planning committee the past three show cycles.
What are you looking forward to most about IBIE 2022?
I’m eager to see and be reunited with my colleagues, my friends, especially from the United States. Not just the bakers, but also equipment manufacturers and suppliers. I’m interested to know how they have been coping with the pandemic, how their plans are coming along and most of all, how they’re doing. It goes without saying that everybody has been doing a great job with the important role of feeding North America and other continents. I can’t wait to see the whole industry gather together again, to share knowledge and to share our experiences.
What do you hope people take away from the show?
As the first major baking show to take place worldwide over the last couple of years, attendees and exhibitors have a lot to gain from the Baking Expo. First of all, innovation. Our industry is driven to move faster and in a more agile way — from our products, processes, even equipment — so that we can fulfill the needs of the market. We’ve seen rapid advancements not just on the equipment side but also in the ingredients and in the processes, and the way we manufacture.
Another big perk will be networking. Since we’ve been apart from each other for a long period of time, networking is going to bring rich, new ideas. It’s a great opportunity for us to share how we’re tackling challenges, not just in America but also in Europe and Asia. It will allow us to fuel up on new ideas, new energy, new ways to overcome our challenges and seize opportunities.
What’s your favorite part about IBIE?
IBIE is filled with many engaging show features, so it’s hard to choose one, but what I find most fascinating is walking the expo halls and seeing how the equipment is adapting to the changing needs of the industry. Since the expo halls are so big it takes time to cover it all and analyze the products, but it’s worth it. There are going to be exciting new developments from exhibitors rolling out products to meet the new requirements.
What new features should people check out at this year’s event?
In 2022 we will hold the expo in the new West Hall in addition to the North Hall that we know and love. We will also have two new pavilions: one focused on cannabis baked goods and the other on sanitation. Other new things to check out are the World Bread Awards taking place onsite and the Tesla Convention Center Loop shuttle system.
And our world-class education programming will be filled with new and relevant topics and fresh ideas. With IBIEducate, there are more than 100 opportunities for attendees to learn the skills and business insights needed to thrive. With all the adaptation that has been required from the pandemic — the new labeling requirements and ever-changing consumer behavior — there are quite a few issues to tackle, but IBIE’s education program can help.
What kind of international attendance do you expect at IBIE 2022?
As I mentioned previously, IBIE will be the first international baking industry event to take place, so we expect an eager and engaged market. Overall, we expect to have the same proportion of international registrants as we have in the past. As a result of our partnership with iba and participation in their virtual event, IBAConnectingExperts, we expect our European participation to increase. We anticipate participation from Asia to hold strong. Latin America and Central markets have a lot of new players, so we believe those small to medium-sized companies will come to IBIE as they’re looking to grow their businesses, for better ingredients and to evolve their food safety and sustainable processes.
What will be the biggest challenges for the international baking industry and the biggest opportunities?
While there are several, the most paramount in my opinion is finding opportunities for growth without being damaged by inflation. The cycle of inflation, increasing costs and ultimately prices can sometimes damage the growth of companies. So the big question here is how can we find opportunities for growth without incurring the damage of inflation.
Also, it’s no secret consumer behavior is always changing, but over the past two years it was rapid and sometimes even showed conflicting desires. For example, better-for-you snacking is on the rise but at the same time so are comfort foods. We see these preferences changing in terms of quality, nutrition value, shelf life, value and quality flavors.
What does IBIE have to offer the international baking community in 2022?
At IBIE we are partners of the US Commercial Services Trade Event Partner Program and have the IBIE International Delegation Program that provides benefits like discounts on registration and education for participants. Apart from the exhibit hall and networking in the International Lounge, these attendees are seeking world-class education.
IBIE is also a gathering where thought leaders from across the globe can come together. We facilitate meetings with leading companies and industry associations from the NOAM, LATAM, APAC and the EU.
How is sustainability changing the way bakers do business?
The recent COP26 Summit reiterated to us all the impacts of global warming and how we’re all responsible for our impacts on Earth. The only way to continue growing and producing is to take great care of our impact in all aspects, not only for the sake of the environment but also for our society and the consumers we serve.
Bakers should be approaching sustainability as the new way of doing business. It is not a project or something to achieve but a consideration in every decision bakers make. Many relevant companies have already shared their commitments in the coming years in terms of neutralizing the impact of the carbon footprint. This is no easy feat because it involves the whole value chain from end to end. To execute this takes a commitment from everybody — suppliers, competitors, consumers, etc. Though it takes effort, this spirit is contagious and is now something companies seek out. What better goal than joining together to really work toward a better world?
For example, at Grupo Bimbo we evolved from being eco-friendly to being socially responsible, and now we’re a company that works for sustainability. By 2025 we will be 100% renewable energy and by 2030 we’ll be tackling our water footprint and in terms of carbon emissions by 2050 to be neutral.
What new technology do you find the most exciting and holds the most promise for the baking industry?
Automation and robotics are especially important now for overcoming labor challenges. The second phase of that is getting into digital and analytics to inform our processes. Once your processes are connected and more or less automated, then work on gathering and analyzing that information. For bakers, this data can be leveraged to enhance the work of employees from the production lines to the sales routes or accurate prospect lists. Not only do you support your people better, but as a result, you’ll have better processes with less waste, better quality, more consistency and so on.
What’s the top reason people come to IBIE?
To find solutions for their bakeries like increasing their yield, quality, production rate and food safety. But this year networking just might be No. 1. People are trying to reconnect again with the industry. Sure, we have stayed in touch virtually, but spending time face to face allows you to ask in-depth questions, learn more and build trust.
This article originally appeared in Baking & Snackmagazine, a Sosland Publishing publication and official media provider of IBIE. Long recognized as the industry’s most trusted source of news and information, Baking & Snack offers compelling coverage and analysis of ingredient and equipment technologies, breaking industry news, equipment and facility investment, and the latest industry trends.