LAS VEGAS — While the Tiptree World Bread Awards USA is just four years old, it has quickly established itself as an authority on breadmaking. The awards will make their post-pandemic return at IBIE, where, for the first time, judging will take place at the show. Hundreds of loaves will go head-to-head in a competition that lauds technique alongside innovation and artisanship.

When you’ve been baking for decades like Stephen Hallam, you learn what it takes to make and judge a great loaf of bread. Currently a brand ambassador for English bakery Dickinson and Morris, Hallam also serves as chairman of the Tiptree World Bread Awards in the UK and US. He will be one of the 22 expert judges on the floor at IBIE working to determine the winners of this year’s contest.

The competition presents a unique opportunity for bakers to show off their technical prowess and put their bread to the test in 15 awards categories. To be evaluated fairly, the different groups adhere to specific, clear definitions, providing a baseline standard that allows judges to fairly use their senses to make sound judgements.

Judging for the Tiptree World Bread Awards adheres to a strict scoring policy based on several criteria. Penalty points are deducted according to the parameters, categories and common issues listed out on the judges’ rubric. Gold certificates are issued to loaves with a score of 90 or higher, followed by silver at 85-89 points and Bronze at 80-84 points. If judges deduct more than 20 points from a loaf, it will receive no certificate at all.


While one should never judge a book by its cover, appearance is one of the first factors on which an entry is evaluated, ranked using a 20-point scale ranging from exceptional to very poor. Eyes eat first in this part of the judging process as experts look at the bread —unwrapped, unmarked and unsliced — for how “attractive” or “exciting” it is.

A bread’s exterior of a loaf is indicative not only of the quality of the product but also the baker. While ovens do the actual baking of the dough, Hallam said, it’s the skills of a baker that makes the loaf clean, well baked and well fermented.

“It’s the oven that runs a bakery, but it’s the master baker that’s in control of the oven,” he said.

The next review looks at the bread’s inner qualities. Judges inspect softness; how the crumb compresses between teeth, fingers or tongue and palette; and resilience, which is the speed and springiness with which the bread returns to its original shape after four fingers press on the cut surface.


The look, listen and feel of the knife as it slices through the loaf also helps judges assess whether a loaf was baked correctly.

“When you’ve cut the loaf, you’re going to look around the crust,” Hallam said. “If you’re baking it too hot or too quickly, it could penetrate the crust. You’re going to want to look at the texture of the crumb, and that is influenced by controlling fermentation and the moulding.”

Judges get a taste of the action in the final stages of the evaluation: crumb texture and taste/flavor. Since judges can’t eat a slice of every entry that comes through, they touch and smell the cut side of the loaf to assess the moisture, texture, aroma and more.

COVID-19 threw the Tiptree World Bread Awards for a loop. In the face of a pandemic, the sense-reliant awards had to shift gears.

“Rather than celebrating the loaf, let’s celebrate the people behind the loaves,” Hallam said.


In 2020, the program recalibrated to focus on bakers giving back to their communities across the US. Five heroes were recognized from the Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, West and Southwest regions, with an overall winner declared from the top five. Including honorable mentions, the bakers were recognized for the work done to support their communities despite the challenges brought to the industry over the past couple of years.

“I’d like to think a lot of people benefitted from [the Bread Hero Awards] and it’s also caused bakers’ customers to see them in a much humbler light because they didn’t have to do all the things they did — they chose to,” Hallam said.

As the Tiptree World Bread Awards returns to its traditional format, the opportunity to view these products in person at IBIE provides a unique view of industry trends. There’s room for all bakers to benefit from stopping by the awards at Booth #6346 this September. For commercial bakers, the chance to learn from young upstarts; for artisan bakers, the opportunity to get their name and products in in front of the industry provides a big opportunity.

Any way you slice it, are a celebration of the past and future of the industry one loaf at a time. From a return to nostalgic flavors to a trailblazing leap of faith, the Tiptree World Bread Awards represent much of what the industry has to offer now and what it can offer in the future.

This story has been adapted from the July 2022 IBIE ShowGuide issue of Commercial Baking. Read the full story in the digital edition here.