Interview with David Haaf, CEO of the IDDBA: How to Adapt to Cultural Changes

The IDDBA 2023 show was held on the enormous show floor of the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, with a record number of exhibitors and attendees. The exhibit hall was sold out with nearly 2,000 booths, where 810 companies presented their products and services to the almost 10,000 attendees at the premier trade show for the dairy, bakery, and deli industries.

The event, which moved from Atlanta to Anaheim this year, brought together producers and buyers interested in doing business, establishing contacts, and learning about new developments in the industry and the services offered by the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association in education and consulting.

David Haaf, president and CEO of the IDDBA, visited Abasto’s booth at the IDDBA Show 2023 in Anaheim, California.

Abasto spoke with David Haaf, president and CEO of the International Dairy Dely and Bakery Association (IDDBA), who took over at the end of April, just in time to oversee the IDDBA Show that took place June 4-6. Haaf replaced Michael Eardley, who led the association for nine years and announced his decision to retire earlier this year.

Haaf, who has more than 30 years of industry experience, spoke about his vision for the industry’s future and what role the association he now leads plays.

“As I discussed in my speech at the show, you need to understand the dynamic changes that have occurred. I think one of the things we share is that, certainly, our customers are looking for value. But our retailers need to understand what value means, and it doesn’t always mean cheaper,” Haaf said.

He added that consumers still like indulgences, enjoying a little treat that is within their budget.

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Haaf said the bakery and deli departments essentially run on impulse buying. Therefore, they are a challenge for retailers who must offer their customers those indulgences while keeping prices competitive.

On business acquisitions, Haaf said it is essential to keep track of the merging companies, the larger companies buying smaller ones, to understand how this affects the industry.

“Also, it’s important for the industry to know that we are here to support them. Our whole education team can help with a wealth of information. All education programs are free to our members.”

Education helps businesses update themselves and better understand the changes happening in the industry, for example, the behavior of the new generations because they are the new workforce and the new customers in the stores.

Haaf added that “some companies understand ongoing cultural change and may have to change their culture. This doesn’t mean that a company gives up its values, but it must understand that if it wants to grow with today’s youth, it has to change. Our job is to help them understand that they need to rethink their marketing strategies.”

The new IDDBA leader concluded that “the most important moral of the story is that everyone has to rethink, keep an open mind, look around, and then turn to organizations like us to help them with information that we can provide by region and help them understand. The industry is always evolving. That’s part of it. And, as a retailer, my job is always to try to keep up.”