Jane Tyler’s blog – CBA conference report

It was great to meet old friends and new at last month’s CBA conference in Manchester.

New friends included Beth Fahey, president of the Retail Bakers of America and John Unrein, executive editor of the U.S. trade magazines Bake and InStore.

Both offered excellent insights into the North American bakery market in a great presentation to attendees.

While it is easy to think of the U.S. as the land of the processed food megacorp, consumers’ desire for genuine craft bakery appears to burn even brighter across the pond than it does here.

What we got was a picture of strong, independent and often family-owned firms that major in innovation and entrepreneurship. Such operations tend to be keen new technology and social media users. In fact, according to Beth Fahey, many of the bakeries that didn’t embrace the digital age in the States are “no longer with us”. There is a lesson to be learned here.

How to put social media into action was covered in earlier presentations by The Brand Incubator’s Claire Nuttall and We Are Spectacular’s Mark McCulloch. Both echoed much of what we at RedBlack see on the ground. Bakers that take the time to step back, consider their brand propositions properly and to nurture them are the ones that are prospering most in today’s market.

Most food industry conferences nowadays include seminars on social media, branding and how to connect with millennials. My advice is to seek them out. Even if you think you are totally on top of your marketing strategies, there will almost always be something new to take away.

It was good to meet up with Marcus Greenwood of Oldham-based Greenwood’s Craftsman Bakers. Marcus is also chairman of BAKO North Western, so, safe to say, he’s a busy chap.

While the irrepressible David Smart was an excellent master of ceremonies, my favourite speech at the conference had to be by the new CBA president Janet Carr.

Janet’s inaugural address was a joy and it is worth remembering that she is only the second female president in the CBA’s 129 years. I am sure that the venerable institution will be in good hands under her stewardship.

Janet, who is boss of Reading-based Warings Bakery, was joined at the conference by her son Daniel Carr and his charming young daughter, which added a nice family touch to the occasion. Picking up from my earlier theme, Daniel Carr – Warings peerless PR man – will present his own take on social media in a seminar at October’s British Society of Baking (BSB) annual conference near Leamington Spa.

Talking of which, a final word must go out to the BSB’s much loved and much admired mainstay Jim Brown. It was absolutely brilliant to see Jim receive a lifetime achievement award from the CBA. To say that it was well-deserved would be a serious understatement. Once again, I offer my heartfelt congratulations.

Jim Brown

Jim Brown

Beth Fahey

Beth Fahey

About Jane Tyler

Jane Tyler founded RedBlack Software in 1998 and is the chief architect of CyBake, Britain’s leading bakery management software suite.

Jane also is an executive committee member of the British Society of Baking and she speaks regularly at food business conferences throughout the UK. In 2014, she graduated from the Goldman Sachs Ambassador Programme, a select initiative that supports high-growth SMEs.