WASHINGTON, DC, US — In a plan first described last fall, the Grain Foods Foundation has reached out to all baking companies likely to be included in a bread checkoff program for “solutions, ideas, questions and concerns.”

In a letter mailed earlier in February, Pete Frederick and Debo Mukherjee, co-chairs of the GFF and its Breadbasket Checkoff Steering Committee, said the initiative is entering a second phase of development. Frederick is president and chief executive officer of Grain Craft, Chattanooga, Tennessee, US, and Mukherjee is chief marketing officer of Flowers Foods, Inc., Thomasville, Georgia, US.

“In the late summer as the industry adapted to the impact of COVID, the initiative was paused at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to give the Checkoff Steering Committee the opportunity to engage industry and ensure the program could accommodate this incredible disruption,” the co-chairs said. “The foundation’s board of trustees met in October and has reiterated its support for continuation of this project, premised on a commitment to more direct dialogue. The committee remains focused on finding a solution to ameliorate the multi-year consumer trend that has and continues to hit the heart of our category: the breadbasket.” 

Seeking to maximize baker interaction as the initiative is pursued, Frederick and Mukherjee identified a series of steps that will be taken, beginning with baker-to-baker dialogues between prospective participants and members of the checkoff steering committee.

“These invitations are open-ended, but the committee is setting aside considerable time for these important conversations through the end of March,” the co-chairs said.

Other steps cited in the letter include virtual roundtables, featuring baker-to-baker dialogues; ongoing steering committee oversight and industry messaging through investor communications and articles published by Sosland Publishing Co.

Technical refinement of the program will be driven by an ad hoc legal committee “to ensure our advocacy for the industry is as strong as possible before the US Department of Agriculture as we work through outstanding legal issues,” the co-chairs said. In particular, the group will look at legal questions prompted by a decision to make participation voluntary for companies baking breadbasket products for foodservice.

Frederick and Mukherjee encouraged the bakers to meet with GFF, nominate a representative to the legal committee and join the steering committee.

“We believe there is place for the baking and milling industry to enhance the industry’s reputation among consumers and give them permission to love our products again,” they said. 

They also encouraged the bakers to preview creative work produced in anticipation of the checkoff and to explore the range of work to be conducted in a checkoff program, including marketing efforts, scientific research and market intelligence.

More information about the checkoff may be found at   https://checkoff.grainfoodsfoundation.org/.