Lessons Learned from My Time in the Baking Industry

by Keith Seiz

16 November, 2012

Twinkie

I cut my teeth, as they say, in the baking industry. I was a recently-graduated 22-year-old moving to the second city and starting my career as a professional journalist, covering the wholesale baking industry.

I knew nothing about the baking industry, and little even, about being a journalist. I didn’t work for my school newspaper, as I thought a career in public relations was more to my liking. But there I was, put in a situation to learn a new industry and hone my skills as a professional writer.

Fortunately, I was a decent writer and had a great mentor/editor. So I survived, and actually thrived moving from assistant editor to managing editor to chief editor in three short years. I attribute most of my success at the magazine to constantly bringing new ideas to the table. I was working for the #3 magazine in a three-magazine industry, so the only way forward was to innovate the way we covered the industry and try to do things differently.

In my time at the magazine, I spilled quite a bit of ink about Interstate Bakeries Corp. (IBC), which produced two of the most iconic products in the industry: Wonder bread and Twinkies. Back then, we challenged IBC’s lack of innovation when it came to variety breads. It was clear, consumers were moving away from white bread and onto variety, whole wheat breads, and I believed IBC was slow to recognize this change. Instead, they focused too much of their efforts on extending the shelf life of their white breads.

Despite being number one, they were struggling. And today, they announced they were ceasing operations, shutting down 33 bakeries, 565 distribution centers and 570 bakery outlet stores in the United States.

Also no longer in existence is the print magazine I spent the first part of my career producing. There are countless reasons that both entities ceased production, but I think an overriding lesson I am reminded of this morning is to never stop innovating. Regardless of your job or industry, always seek better way to do things and compel people, whether it’s your client or boss.

Take smart risks and don’t be afraid to try and do things differently.