KANSAS CITY, MO — Baking is unquestionably an art, but it’s simultaneously a science.

Although it may be a lesser-known scientific field than biochemistry or medicine, it holds many opportunities for people interested in STEM fields that are centered in doing good for the world. That’s why the National Consortium of Specialized STEM Schools invited a panel of five baking industry professionals to speak at its annual conference .

The conference focused on how educators can open their students’ eyes to the world of opportunity in STEM fields, including bakery science and engineering. Panelists shared their own journeys into the baking world and how students who want a meaningful career in a scientific field can find it in the food industry.


The panel, moderated by business development specialist for the Blue Valley CAPS program , consisted of Emily Bowers, VP of education and operations for BEMA; Joanie Spencer, editor-in-chief of Commercial Baking; Jason Stricker, VP of sales and marketing for Shick Esteve; Mark Hotze, VP of North America for Corbion; and Jennifer Lindsey, VP of global marketing for Corbion. The group kicked off the discussion by addressing the current labor shortage’s impact on commercial baking and food production, and how it began long before the world knew of the word “coronavirus.” Hotze said he thinks more education on the career opportunities related to food science and food manufacturing would let students know that the baking industry is an exciting place to be.

“If you walk out of a university with a degree you can use in food science, that’s 100% placement right there,” he said. “And as far as career paths, the sky is the limit.”

Hotze said that Corbion, a global market leader in lactic acid and its derivatives and leading supplier of emulsifiers, functional enzyme blends, minerals, vitamins, and algae ingredients, hosts six to eight interns per year from different backgrounds, providing exposure to a myriad of food science opportunities. Students who intentionally walk into the food industry often have a leg up, which is one point the panel wanted to translate to the educators: This industry needs talented scientists and engineers who are passionate about keeping the population fed.

“One thing that’s important to understand is this industry is satisfying on a personal and professional level because we are part of the solution to feeding the world,” Stricker said. “And not just feeding them but feeding them healthy and safe food.”


But baking isn’t the only business sector that’s hunting for talent, and today’s competition can be cutthroat. Young professionals are increasingly seeking careers that not only have great salaries, cultures and benefits but that also have an “X factor” of knowing they’re making a difference.

“I always bring up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and how at the base of that pyramid you have food,” Lindsey said. “There is nothing more important that you can contribute in your own backyard, country, or even globally, than feeding people. And how are we going to do it when the population is at 11 billion? Students today are going to face that mark, and they’re going to be part of finding the solution.”

Spencer also highlighted the ways that the baking industry goes beyond STEM, and how many students who think STEM isn’t their “thing” could still find fulfilling paths through baking. She highlighted The Women’s Bakery, founded by Markey Culver, and how that organization is helping to provide food and financial security to women and communities throughout East Africa.

“I bet you have students who aren’t interested in STEM, but they don’t realize all that you can do with it,” she said.  “Markey will say to this day that she’s not a baker,  But she is literally changing the world through baking bread. She’s proof that science can change lives.”


As IBIE, the largest baking industry tradeshow in the world that is co-owned by BEMA and ABA, approaches, Bowers identified it as a great opportunity to expose students to the industry firsthand. She is co-manager of the tradeshow and its student immersion program, which allows them to volunteer at the show and see all the opportunities the industry has to offer.

“It’s of course my passion project,” Bowers said. “And students can really see firsthand what we are talking about — about a million square feet of it.”