Interview with Commercial Baking’s Annie Hollon

CARMEL, Ind., from Interview with Annie Hollon, Commercial Baking — June 1 marked the kickoff of the 100th anniversary celebration of the American Society of Baking (ASB). Kristen Spriggs, the organization’s executive director, shared her perspective on the work taking place to keep the organization moving forward.

As a newcomer to the industry, Spriggs is taking in as much information as she can by visiting bakeries and connecting with industry experts.

“One of the things I love about working in associations is that you get to know the people who are behind the products,” Spriggs said. “I’ve done a number of visits to learn and understand the process and modern manufacturing techniques of commercial baked goods, and it’s just fascinating.”

With a century of history as their foundation, Spriggs and the ASB planning committee see events such as BakingTECH, held earlier this year in Chicago, as opportunities to grow and learn.

“People used to come to BakingTECH and ASB events because they were the only way they could get information to innovate,” she said. “There are many ways to connect now but face to face is still the best way to build your network.  Having a trusted community of peers is one of the most powerful benefits that organizations like ASB can foster.”

Beyond relationships between current industry members, ASB is preparing for the future with help from its young professionals committee. With 23% of ASB’s membership under the age of 40, this demographic is a growing and important segment for the association. Regional networking events and industry education are two initiatives committee members are particularly passionate about.

“They respect and admire the history of ASB, but they’re also so eager to innovate and talk about how to recruit the next generation of leaders,” Spriggs said. “In addition to the young professionals meetup, they’re working on mentorship programs and joining our efforts in evaluating our educational offerings.”

Spriggs shared that the committee is also working alongside ASB to bring the association’s benefits to a new demographic.

“A big opportunity we see is looking not just the four-year programs but also the two-year programs and culinary institutes,” Spriggs said.

In another nod to the future, ASB will begin rotating the location of its annual convention between Chicago and a warm-weather destination, beginning with Orlando in 2025. The planning committee is also looking at opportunities to continue to evolve BakingTECH, which is one of the board’s primary goals.

Spriggs and ASB leadership are also working to find ways to add value to its members outside of its annual event.

“Events are growing and there’s so much value to gathering in-person,” she explained, “so how do we take the BakingTECH community and expand that energy, excitement, passion and connectivity to a broader audience? I’ve been working with several member committees and task forces to look at how ASB continues to innovate and reinvent ourselves for the future.”

After decades of history, it can be easy to stick to the status quo. However, Spriggs sees the anniversary milestone as a chance to go beyond the expected and evolve.

“If you think about it like a maturity model, as you grow, at some point you either keep growing, you reinvent or you die, becoming a relic,” Spriggs explained. “I want us to continue to innovate and be invigorated.”

As ASB embarks on its next 100 years, Spriggs hopes the association will unite members of the industry and be ready to meet the needs of the next generation.

“We have so much opportunity,” she said. “We are going to innovate, create, inspire and bring people together. We’re going to do all the same things that we’ve done for a long time that are fundamental to who we are and then we’re going to stoke those embers and grow.”