PALM SPRINGS, CA — The American Bakers Association (ABA) and the American Society of Baking (ASB) have released a joint study, 2022 Workforce Gap in US Commercial Baking: Recruitment and Retention Challenges and Best Practices, in conjunction with Cypress Research.

Conducted in October 2021 and February 2022, the study assesses challenges and best practices for workforce recruitment and retention in the US commercial baking industry.

An update to the original study conducted in 2016, the 2022 report’s findings help bakery employers better understand the current retention trends for hourly, skilled and unskilled production employees and how they have changed during the past five years.

The key findings and opportunities discovered in the study were presented at ABA’s Annual Convention by Marjorie Hellmer, president of Cypress research.

Hellmer noted that the survey response data allowed the firm to draw conclusions between the study years in how baking companies are adopting best practices to address workforce issues. It also helped identify new strategy opportunities for the years ahead.

Similar to the 2016 study, respondents were asked to rank on a five-point scale the extent of the skills shortage in specific areas. The Cypress team was then able to identify the differences in severities over the five-year period.

Marjorie Hellmer

“We have shortages among machine operators, which increased significantly during the past five years, whereas with maintenance and engineering positions, shortages over time have decreased in severity,” Hellmer said, noting that even with a decrease, 58% of respondents still reported high to severe challenges with those positions today.

Drilling down into hourly unskilled positions, Hellmer noted a critical need for production workers, loaders and shippers, and sanitation workers. Shipping, incidentally, has become a particular pain point as supply chain disruption is impacting shipping and logistics across virtually every facet of manufacturing.

In terms of recruitment and retention efforts, the study asked participants for a five-year projection on what the primary challenges will be. The top five challenges emulated the 2016 baseline study, indicating these problems are not near-term challenges that come with an easy solution; they require strategic planning.

The top concern noted in both the current and baseline studies was difficulty in identifying new talent pools, followed by the branding difficulty in making bakery manufacturing an attractive career choice.

Rounding out that top five included a lack of appreciation for non-monetary company benefits, an overall lack of awareness of the industry, and a lack of needed skillsets.


“The results show specific action items our industry’s employers could consider implementing to help retain workers.” —Robb MacKie | president and CEO | American Bakers Association


One big difference from the baseline study is a significant increase in severity for the need to identify new talent pools, according to Hellmer.

“Nearly 78% of companies report using a strategy of targeting new talent pools for bringing in new talent to their companies,” she said. “But that recruitment challenge was cited by 97% of the industry, which means we’re still sitting in a gap in narrowing that workforce pain.”

That said, the study also outlines best practices that bakery manufacturers are using to find new ways to recruit talent, including 13 target groups currently being leveraged by companies to bring in new personnel.

“ABA and ASB Members can use this study as another resource to find opportunities in their workforce retention efforts,” said Robb MacKie, ABA president and CEO. “The results show specific action items our industry’s employers could consider implementing to help retain workers.”

Kent Van Amburg, ASB executive director, said that developing long-term strategies for the future starts with understanding how these issues have evolved.

“The information in this study will help ASB and ABA Members understand specifically how the industry’s retention best practices have changed in the past five years and what the next five years might hold,” Van Amburg said. “Equipped with these findings, companies can discover potential retention strategies for their business.”

ASB Members can obtain the full study by contacting Kent Van Amburg at ABA Members can access the full study soon on