No pain no gain, as they say. And the pandemic certainly brought pain to the baking industry. But as agonizing as the mountain of COVID-related challenges were (and still are), it bred evolution in the world of bakery suppliers.

Equipment and ingredient companies alike took a hard look at how the world was changing and what their customers needed. As it turned out, bakery operations have a lot in common with the rest of the world: They need dependability, flexibility and ways to keep everything clean. As the world was rapidly shifting, cookies, cakes and bread became the consumer’s solace, and baking companies — and their suppliers — didn’t back down from giving them what they needed.

In Commercial Baking’s Innovations Annual special edition, the team dug into how the industry has not only risen to the occasion but also pushed its standards into more ambitious territory. There are a host of supplier solutions that can change the game for efficient bakery operations, and here are some of the top themes for a new decade of innovation.


“The Great Resignation” has left nearly every area of business facing a workforce shortage. A record 4.4 million Americans quit their job in September 2021, and with signs pointing to the shortage only getting worse, the baking industry has to think fast on how to retain talented employees while shifting operations to function without as many people.

Suppliers are helping baking companies and their employees get what they need … and want. Automated solutions for tedious — or even hazardous — tasks allow workers to focus on the more enjoyable responsibilities of their jobs, and that allows companies to retain workers who are truly tapping into their unique talents. These solutions also give organizations a cushion when it comes to employee turnover, letting a robot step in when a human walks out the door.

Flexibility was another standout focus of innovation in recent years. As shopping and eating habits have shifted, consumer demand went up and out: They wanted more of the favorites and also to see something different. From new pretzel shapes to individual snack sizes of crackers and cookies, the pressure was on for bakers and snack manufacturers to develop new products — and do it quickly. Equipment that can shift production techniques on a dime will be key to future innovation.


Another vital element central to many boundary-breaking innovations is food safety. Sanitary design has been a critical concern for commercial baking companies for years, but thanks to the pandemic, the word “clean” has taken on even more meaning, especially in the eyes of consumers. Operators can’t shut down the lines to sanitize their machines every hour on the hour, so the burden remains on suppliers to develop new solutions. Several companies brought new ways to keep bakeries running while prioritizing cleanliness and efficiency.

While bakeries work hard to keep their operation safe and the workforce healthy, shoppers are addressing their own concerns over health and safety, which means thinking more critically about what they’ve been eating. Would their food support their immune system as a deadly disease ravages the world? At the same time, would it bring them joy as they faced uncertainty? And would it keep long enough to last in a family home — one possibly filled with angsty college students forced to return from their semester early?

As these companies continue to provide for people still hunkering down, many ingredient solution suppliers have helped them do it. From clean label innovation to enzyme technology, suppliers are making a big effort to help bakers adjust to a new normal.

A critical part of that new normal involves going digital. After online life became a replacement for social occasions, classrooms and conference rooms, online grocery delivery services have boomed as overnight sensations. When workers went completely remote or hybrid, computers and mobile devices expanded far beyond their roles as outlets for buying home goods and browsing Netflix. Several suppliers have answered the call to put the functionality of the internet into their equipment as well, providing a user friendly and accessible experience.


As the world is still grappling with the effects of pandemic-driven change, it seems nearly impossible to know what the future holds. But the baking industry is moving forward with open arms and open minds, ready to tackle whatever problems lie ahead. And while the future of innovation is undoubtedly essential, so is honoring the baking industry’s past accomplishments through uncertain times.

Above all, baking professionals have worked tirelessly to be there for one another through a broken supply chain, sickness, fear and, at times, even failure. Competitors have become teammates as any parts they could spare were lent to someone in need, and as tips were shared on how to get ingredients and equipment when lead times are longer than ever. Perhaps the most notable evolution of innovation from bakers and suppliers alike is the ability to understand and support the industry. Everyone has found common ground as people determined to get food into the hands of consumers despite the unknowns of how they would get it all done.

And get it done they have.

And when it comes to next year? The baking industry says bring it on, 2022.

This story is an adapted version from the full piece in Commercial Baking’s Innovations Annual. Read the full version and see a list of standout suppliers here.