Birth of the modern era
Fast forward to 1949. Thirteen years had passed since the previous Expo. After weathering economic difficulties and wartime privations, bakers were ready for change. They got it at the first baking show to be jointly sponsored on a regular basis by BEMA and the American Bakers Association (A.B.A.).
Baking Expo 1949 marked the first such assembly in the modern era and was hailed as a wildly successful event. Organizers promptly set the next one for 1955, and the show settled into a six-year cycle of events at Atlantic City and other venues. The pattern held steady for the 1961, 1967 and 1973 expositions.
During this period, the baking industry saw the emergence of continuous mixing for bread and cakes, automatic scales and mixers, bulk flour handling, mobile bakeries for U.S. Army use, the birth of the brown ’n serve process and rack ovens — just to name a few. In the 1960s came the development of high-speed English muffin lines, frozen dough bake-off technology and spiral conveyors for proofing, cooling and freezing. Among the major advances in technology during the 1970s were pneumatic pre-batching of ingredients, satellite-style, multi-roller laminators and vacuum cooling for par-baked bread.
To better accommodate the accelerating pace of technological change, the A.B.A. and BEMA shortened the interval to every four years starting with the 1977 event. But they had even bigger ambitions in mind; they decided to move the 1981 Baking Expo to Las Vegas. Although some thought this a risky choice, the new venue proved well worth the gamble.
Changes and challenges
The timetable held to four years apart for the next five shows: 1985, 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2001. That period saw the rise of the information age and the introduction of full bakery computer-integrated manufacturing, touch-screen equipment controls and computerized master batching systems.
From an automation perspective, the 1980s saw overtilt-bowl horizontal mixers, rotary bread dividers and gravity-controlled, stress-free dough handling. The 1990s took a quantum leap with open-architecture computer controls for processing lines, servo-driven enhanced equipment, high-rise robotic fermentation rooms, ultrasonic slicing techniques and low-stress systems for high-absorption, artisan doughs.
To herald the new millennium, show organizers officially changed the event’s name to the International Baking Industry Exposition for the 2001 gathering. However, the new century brought new challenges. Despite all the new technology at the 2001 show, its biggest development did not take place on the exhibition floor. Instead, national crisis brought IBIE to a standstill on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, a day that nobody will ever forget.
As details of the largest attack on American soil rapidly unfolded, the IBIE committee shut down the meeting when city authorities evacuated Las Vegas Convention Center 90 minutes before the show was to open. The 9/11 attacks forced a three-day shutdown of air travel worldwide, stranding 22,000 IBIE attendees and exhibitors in Las Vegas, while an estimated 2,500 others who planned to come missed the show entirely.
When IBIE reopened for those who remained in Las Vegas, show managers extended hours for its remaining days. The historic day changed the country, and IBIE was about to change as well.
IBIE’s four-year schedule often led to overlaps with bakery shows in Europe, notably iba in Germany. The A.B.A. and BEMA reorganized their event to dovetail with that three-year pattern and set the next date for 2004.
Bigger, better programs
With the move to Las Vegas came increasing demand for more program content. Over the years, industry associations, including the Tortilla Industry Association (T.I.A.) and the Independent Bakers Association (I.B.A.), scheduled their fall meetings to coincide with the burgeoning exposition, but attendees wanted more. Specifically, they requested educational offerings open to the whole trade. In 2004, they got a series of “hot topic” seminars conducted by AIB International.
In succeeding years, the Retail Bakers of America (R.B.A.) and the Bread Bakers Guild joined AIB International in providing speakers and producing educational sessions.
When the Las Vegas Convention Center could not accommodate the fall 2007 dates and space required by IBIE, the joint BEMA-A.B.A. management committee selected the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., where the Grain Foods Foundation revealed its communication program focused on the functional benefits of grains in the diet.
The year 2010 brought IBIE back to Las Vegas for a blockbuster event that covered a half-million square feet of exhibit space. BEMA and the A.B.A. welcomed the R.B.A. as a new partner for the event.
Three world-class live skills competitions brought the excitement of Food Network-style reality TV onto the 2010 show floor. The Louis Lesaffre Cup tapped IBIE for its Western Hemisphere finals ahead of the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie (World Baking Cup) in Paris. General Mills hosted the Pillsbury Baker’s Plus Grand Champion cake decorating contest. The World Chocolate Masters U.S. national competition also took place and TLC brought in a TV crew to capture these events live on the cable network.
IBIE grew even larger. In 2013, it boasted 815 exhibitors (13% more than in 2010) that took up 19% more square footage in the Las Vegas Convention Center. Attendance surged, as well, to an estimated 21,000 baking professionals. Exhibitors highlighted energy conservation, sanitary systems and food safety as well as growing consumer interest in organic and healthy foods. IBIE also introduced the Innovation Showcase, organized by Sosland Publishing Company.
Exhibitors brought in food celebrities such as the “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro to lead in-booth demonstrations, and the American Pie Council provided a pie buffet. The PQM Pizza Village showed machinery and demonstrated the latest pizza production techniques. Plus, the 2013 show added a mobile app for smartphone users.
Let’s get interactive
The 2016 gathering again set new records for exhibition space (700,000 square feet, up 28% from 2013), exhibitors (more than 1,000 with 340 new to the show) and visitors (a 9% increase over the previous IBIE). The Innovation Showcase more than doubled in number of participants. The first All-American Tailgate Party gave attendees additional networking time on opening day. One exhibitor pioneered with a virtual reality tour of an operating bakery. That’s something many bakers then saw in full force at the 2019 show with the iba Virtual Bakery Tours.
IBIE 2019 focused heavily on education. The IBIEducate program and BEMA-U highlighted the many opportunities to be included at upcoming shows. With 60+ show floor demos, 203 expert speakers and more than 100 sessions to attend there was not shortage of insight at this show.
IBIE has long benefited from the International Buyers program, a function of the U.S. Department of Commerce, but ramped up marketing and delegation programs in 2018. IBIE welcomed exhibitors and attendees from more than 110 countries at future shows, accounting for more than 30% of total attendance for three consecutive installments.
Exhibitors brought nearly ~7 million pounds of technology, equipment, and supplies to display in 2019. Occupying over 430,000 net square feet not only broke the standing record for IBIE’s footprint but also earned the show a top spot on not one but two industry award lists.