While change in an ancient industry like baking tends to be incremental from one IBIE cycle to the next, there are numerous ways the environment in which baking companies operate is fundamentally different in 2022 than was the case in 2019. Of course, nothing has been a greater driver of change than the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that emerged a few short months after IBIE 2019, with implications for the labor market, sanitation and for the product mix demanded in the marketplace.

Sustainability persists

A few months before the 2019 IBIE, the United Nations in concert with 25 businesses launched its “business ambition for 1.5˚C,” a call to action looking for the business community to set verifiable science-based targets toward limiting global warming to 1.5˚C and to achieve a net-zero emission economy by 2050.

By December 2020, the 25 businesses had swelled to a group of 350 (the UN recently said more than 1,200 companies now have made zero-emissions pledges). That month, Nestle said it had become one of the first signatories to share a detailed plan for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions. The company debuted a pilot fleet electrification plan to test the use of electric trucks on a 20-mile short haul route in Ohio, and globally, Nestle said it expected to complete a transition of its 800 sites in the 187 countries where it operates by the end of 2025 to 100% renewable electricity.

A wide range of other food, beverage ingredient and foodservice companies as well as retailers have signed the pledge, including Clif Bar & Co.; Corteva Agriscience; Corbion NV; Groupe Danone; Domino’s Pizza, Inc.; General Mills, Inc.; Givaudan; Grupo Bimbo SAB de CV; Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV; Mars, Inc.; McCormick & Co.; Panera Bread Co.; PepsiCo, Inc.; Koninklijke NV; Target Corp.; The Hain Celestial Group; Unilever PLC; Univar Solutions Inc.; and Walmart Inc.

In addition to focusing on making their operations more sustainable, several companies have looked upstream to effect change. 

At General Mills, Mary Jane Melendez, chief sustainability and social impact officer, earlier this year said 90% of the company’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from Scope 3 — not related to activities at assets owned by the company. 

“As a result, we are accelerating the adoption of regenerative agriculture, which we expect will be the largest contributor to our greenhouse gas reduction goals,” she said.

The company has committed to advancing regenerative agriculture on 1 million acres by 2030, Ms. Melendez said. To date, the company is 20% of the way toward this goal.

Bimbo became the first major North American baking company to sign onto the pledge in the fall of 2021.