Gemma Fernández. Journalist. @gemmafdz
The Spanish Association of Baking, Pastry and Cake Manufacturers (Asemac) has grown spectacularly since it was created in 1990. Today it includes 80% of companies and close to 90% of revenues from the frozen dough sector, and its associates generate quality employment, providing close to 5,000 direct jobs. Felipe Ruano, president of Asemac, discusses the importance of innovation for sector growth with Wikispanishfood.com.
Gemma Fernández. Associations are going through a difficult period. How is Asemac doing?
Felipe Ruano. Since inception, our association has seen how the industrial baked goods sector has grown tremendously and acquired notable size and prestige within the industry. Asemac is currently one of the business associations that defends the sector's interests and baked goods companies from any problems that may arise. The number of associates increases every year, which suggests we're going well.
We support our associates with their day-to-day queries through Asemac's Technical Committee, with the creation of ad hoc working groups, and by drafting and maintaining legislative files and the various work manuals and documents up-to-date, which we write in consensus with the public administrations and which are then adhered to by the entire sector.
G.F. What types of actions do you implement to defend the interests of your associates vis-à-vis the public administrations, and what kind of relationship do you have with those institutions?
F.R. Asemac's main function is to liaise with regional, national and international governments. That relationship is vital for associates to be able to operate smoothly in their day-to-day, as it's increasingly important to understand legislation, and we advise them and defend them in the event of any problems.
We also seek out synergies with other agri-food associations with common interests, and we participate actively in the "Bread Every Day" campaign, which raises awareness about this product.
Broadly speaking, we provide services to the sector and represent it at all levels.
G.F. What are the objectives of the "Bread Every Day" campaign?
F.R. In recent years, Asemac has been able to bring together all of the companies in our sector, Spain's largest flour mills and the main producers of ingredients and complementary products for baking to participate in this campaign to encourage bread consumption.
The campaign, which has been under way since December 2007, uses scientific data to raise awareness about this timeless product's positive properties. Moreover, since the "Bread every day" campaign began, many activities have been organized to improve bread's image. Specifically, it has worked to break down myths about bread using scientific studies conducted by internationally renowned experts, who recognize the product's favorable qualities and role in a balanced diet.
G.F. Innovation has always been a priority for the Association, and an issue that is very important to consumers today. Where do Asemac companies stand?
F.R. Our companies are firmly committed to R&D spending, as visible in the rising numbers from year to year. In our sector, innovation is more related to processes, sales formulas and cost saving technologies. To that end, Asemac associates look to offer their customers not only improved products, but also the products that they want.
Our associates are investing heavily in R&D and innovation to obtain products in all of the areas in which we operate—baked goods, pastries and confectionery—which meet the needs of consumers who are increasingly better informed, more demanding, and devoted to a healthy, balanced diet.
This commitment has enabled us to offer the market items adapted to certain illnesses, such as gluten-free products, as well as new formats of bread which are very popular among consumers and others which are ideal for single-person households and also large families.
G.F. What role do new technologies play in the sector?
F.R. New technologies are essential for the sector to be competitive. Our production processes are the same as always. We use the same raw materials; however, during production, the bread is frozen in a way that ensures a quality product which maintains all of its properties and, as a result of the cold temperature, it can keep for longer and travel greater distances. That allows us to prepare a wide variety of breads that meet consumer demands.
In recent years, there are more stores specializing in bread, offering a greater variety of our products, which increases our market share because we are offering quality at a better price than traditional baked goods.
G.F. Data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment's Consumption Panel reflects a 2.8% increase in bread consumption in the last year, and a two-year upward trend. What do you believe is the reason for that increase and what's your forecast for 2014?
F.R. At Asemac, we believe these figures are optimistic, and we expect 2014 data to confirm the positive trend.
The industrial baked goods sector is performing well and is weathering the storm as a result of its commitment to innovation and quality. In fact, the sector has grown spectacularly over the last two decades and, despite the economic crisis, our market share continues to grow.
Our business model is triumphing in various sales channels, and that presents a double challenge for our companies: offer our customers the products that they want, and do it competitively to further strengthen an industry that is fighting to meet consumer demands. At the moment we are facing these challenges head-on and working hard to adapt to society's needs.