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March 1, 2016
BakingTech 2016- Changing of the Guard

Thank you to the ASB board and membership for trusting me to chair the society for the coming year.

A very special thank you to Ramon Rivera and Anthony Turano for their leadership these past two years, and for being great role models as I prepared to take over the chairman position.

Last January was my 10th anniversary in the industry, which means I’m still somewhat of a rookie in the baking world, specifically when following Ramon and his 35 years of experience at Bimbo, and Anthony who is part of one of the most respected and iconic families in the industry. I am humbled and honored to follow in their footsteps.

These past 10 years since joining Pan Pepin have been the most fulfilling and rewarding of my professional career, in large part because I had never been a part of any industry where its members display the passion and commitment that I have seen in the baking industry.

It is that very passion and commitment from the industry’s leaders and workforce that has driven the growth and health of our industry. Through tough economic times, recessions and depressions, wars and conflicts, changes in consumer tastes and preferences, and the increased awareness of healthy eating trends, whether they become permanent habits or simply short-lived fads, the baking industry has always risen to the challenge and come out stronger than before.

I believe it is the job of the ASB to provide the tools and resources that will allow our members to channel that passion and commitment into action and results. The ASB needs to continue to be the premier industry forum for education and the exchange of ideas, by leveraging our events and the networking opportunities they provide. This is only possible with the active engagement of our membership, so I thank you all for being here since this is the best way to continue our quest for growth of the industry.

A few months ago the ASB board met and we spent a couple of days outlining the challenges and opportunities the industry is facing, and how the ASB can be most effective in its role. Among other things, we identified the key drivers of change, which included:

  • Technology, and its influence on consumer choices, its impact on production processes and human resources.
  • Globalization, such as the Interdependence of organizations in different countries, multinational companies, and the emphasis on feeding a growing world population.
  • Health and nutrition trends, the focus on “good for me” products, and the conflict of trends vs. realities.
  • Legislation and Regulation, particularly the growing focus on food safety and labeling.
  • Generation Y, how their working style will impact the workplace, and what their expectations and desires are in their chosen careers.

Identifying the drivers is the easy part, the challenge is in designing the strategies and tactics that will allow us to turn them into drivers of growth. But I have no doubt that with the collective knowledge and experience in our membership base we will once again rise to the challenge.

While researching possible themes for next year’s BakingTech, I came across the following quote by Malcolm Forbes : “Diversity is the art of thinking independently together”. As I thought about where the ASB is today, and those drivers of change that I listed earlier, I realized that this was a great description of what’s going on in the Society. What started out as a Society of Bakery Engineers has become the largest talent pool in the baking industry, which now counts among its members individuals in the Sales & Marketing field, Research & Development personnel, Operations & Logistics executives, Top-level managers, and students in the Food Technology, Grain, and Baking Sciences, among many others. What once was a membership comprised of people baking bread and rolls primarily, today includes a wide variety of products, including sweet snacks, like cakes, cookies, and donuts; salty snacks, like crackers and pretzels; tortillas, and nutrition bars to name a few. Every year, BakingTech offers college students interested in the industry, the chance to sit at the table with some of the most experienced professionals in the industry, such as the Hall of Famers we honored here yesterday. As you can see, Diversity of people, products, and backgrounds has also been a key driver of our industry.

When Malcolm Forbes said “Diversity is the art of thinking independently together”, he was expressing something very similar to the ASB’s Vision Statement, which includes the words “educating, communicating and sharing knowledge for the enhancement of our members and the industry”. What we do here at BakingTech every year, and what the ASB strives for, is for all of us to think independently together, and that is why we have chosen Diversity as the theme for BakingTech 2017. I will let Clay Miller, Program Chair for BakingTech 2017, tell you more about the theme and the Program Committee he has assembled.

I thank you all for your continued support of the American Society of Baking, and for trusting me to chair the society during the coming year. I hope to see all of you back at BakingTech next year!

Thank you,


Mario Somoza

2016-17 ASB Chairman

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