In one exhibit hall, fondant-wrapped cakes depicting themes such as Tinkerbell, Halloween and surfing were on display, while ingredient suppliers showed products from gelato mix-ins to vivid food coloring agents in another in section.
In another hall, large-scale machines for packaging, assembling, cutting and baking grain products dominated the landscape, whirring with every move they made.
The $102 billion baking industry held its largest North American gathering, the 2013 International Baking Industry Exposition, this week in Las Vegas.
IBIE is held every three years. Show managers said pre-registrations tracked about 10 percent ahead of 2010, and international attendees were up 5 percent over 2010, making up about 15 percent of the total registration.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority cited 35,000 attendees, with a nongaming economic impact estimated at $44 million.
IBIE covered more than 500,000 net square feet in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s North and Central halls. Exhibitors grew 20 percent over 2010, totaling more than 800 manufacturers and suppliers.
Attendees included wholesale and retail bakers, tortilla producers, food-service professionals and in-store bakeries.
Bakers, product wholesalers and retailers directly or indirectly employ about 707,000 Americans.
At IFC Solutions, small, clear jars held magenta, pearlescent lavender and royal blue powders. As a specialty ingredient blending company, IFC Solutions specializes in color, whether oil or water based, organic, pearlescent or a powder.
“Our real specialty is custom blending for our customers,” said sales representative Billy Alosco.
The company also sells anti-stick lubricants for confectionery, meat packing and baking assembly lines, and specialty lecithin products, including allergen-free lecithin, a replacement for soy.
IFC’s allergen-free line has increased sales and has been a popular product, as are natural colorings made from products such as beets and spinach.
“We’re thriving because of them,” Alosco said.
Tom Schneider from Vac-U-Max said the show has been good to him, mostly because the three-year show cycle creates a pent-up demand for products.
New Jersey-based Vac-U-Max showed off its bulk conveying solutions that take grain from silo to packaging.
This year, IBIE launched its Innovation Showcase highlighting 48 of the industry’s leading suppliers, including those from segments such as ingredients, equipment, packaging and safety.
Products showcased included Baxter’s energy efficient rotating rack oven, whole algal flour from Solazyme, and a multifunctional mixer from Tonelli that allows bakers to mix, cook, chill and pasteurize.
The conference had demonstrations and classes intended to help participants improve product and profitability.
As part of an initiative to attract more attendees from Latin America, the conference also offered select classes in Spanish.
International attendees were out in full force, said Daniel Menard, a distributor for Ecopack, an Italian company that makes biodegradable paper liners for cupcakes, cakes and breads for the industry.
He was at IBIE looking to increase U.S. distribution.
“The difficulty that we’re having is we have a competitor that is set in the U.S. for the last 20 to 25 years or so,” Menard said.
Novacart, also an Italian company, sells similar products, so Ecopack is having a hard time distinguishing itself.
“There’s confusion thinking we are distributing the same line,” Menard said. “Shows like this give us the opportunity to meet large bakeries and distributors.”
Another challenge, he said, is that there is not as much focus on packaging in North America as there is in Europe.
“People are not ready to change the aluminum containers to paper. Aluminum is cheaper than paper,” Menard said.
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at email@example.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.