The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Loaf size for Farmer's Market

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Zenbirder's picture
Zenbirder

Loaf size for Farmer's Market

I am gearing up for baking for Farmer's Market and need to expand my number of bread pans for sandwich loaves.  I am questioning the size I should buy.  My normal for home are some old aluminium 5 1/2 X 9 1/2 X 2 3/4 for breads, I have never had any problems baking in them.  I am particularly considering the Norpro 8" and/or Norpro 10" sizes from Amazon.  I am thinking that if I go with the smaller size, my sale price per loaf will not be all that much different, but I will be out less money for ingredients.  On the other hand, a big loaf is impressive and seems more worth the money?  Does anyone have any experience with what customer's want or even notice in a loaf size?  Are there any opinions on the Norpro?

maurdel's picture
maurdel

I believe I am more likely to buy a large loaf.  Much more so than ever buying 2 small (even for half the cost). Not sure why though, I suppose as you said large loaves are impressive.


I think it's probable that if you have small loaves on the same table, and they are more than half the price of the large, then it would encourage large loaf sales.


I guess there is significant marketing science involved. Good luck with your sales.

mcs's picture
mcs

I think what maurdel says, goes to your advantage.  Your main expense is your labor, not your materials, so it's your best bet to sell a large loaf rather than 2 small loaves. 


Let's say the ingredients cost for a 1 pound white loaf is $.35.  If you can sell it for $3.50, you make $3.15 (yes, of course there are many other costs).  If you bump that loaf size up to 1.5 pounds, your material cost only goes up to $.50, but you can certainly charge $1 more for something 50% larger.  So if you sell it for $4.50, you now make $4.00 on your loaf for the same amount of work and virtually the same oven space. 
The smaller your products, the more oven space they take up (1 loaf might take up as much as 8 rolls), which is more time on task for you. 
Some people feel weird buying a huge loaf if they think they'll be wasting some, so I wouldn't go larger than 1.5 pounds.
I'd sell some as free form loaves (not all pan loaves) just because some people like that look and it'll make it easier for them to distinguish the different types. 
Hope this helps.


-Mark


http://TheBackHomeBakery.com

AlanTheBreadGuy's picture
AlanTheBreadGuy

I sold bread at my local Farmer's Market for 12 years.  All my loaves weighed in at 1.5 lbs.  Some were free-form rounds and the rest were in 4.5 inch x 8.5 inch pans.  I sold between 100 and 200 loaves per market, depending on the time of year (Summer was obviously busier).  The only complaints I had came from the folks who didn't eat much bread.  They wanted me to make half-sized loaves, and some even offered to pay more for them.  I refused only because I didn't want the extra work.  Initially, size may play a roll in people's purchase decisions, but flavour will win them over.  We found handing out samples in the beginning helped win them over (eventually we didn't need to anymore).  We also found that staying on our feet at all times and saying a friendly, "Good morning" to everyone that walked by our table had a huge impact on sales (just about every person who got a greeting eventually became a customer - and many became friends).  We also kept our prices rounded off to the nearest quarter (ie. $3.75 or $4.50) to help with easy adding up (and not having to deal with small change).  Also, if your product is a good one, price it accordingly.  If you don't put value on it, your customers won't either.  Best of luck to you; it's a great way to sell your bread.

Zenbirder's picture
Zenbirder

Thanks for the feedback.  I will make good big loaves.  My oven is the limiting factor in number of loaves.  I will have to think about how much a loaf costs me, I can not nail it down but can approximate.  I have a wonderful big marble slab in the oven so freeforms will also be produced.


My niche is "tasty health food", I grind my own grains right before baking (wheat, oats, barley & rye).  I use home grown eggs in some breads, from my pampered free range chicken girls.  I also use raw honey or agave syrup rather than sugar.  This seems to be translating to good sales in my area.  I have been practicing increasing my number of loaves.  I take them to my dance class and they are selling out immediately, with a bit of squabbling over who gets them this week!  The feedback has been tremendous, people are so used to eating junk that they can't believe how good real bread can taste!  I set the price so far at $5 a loaf, and have not had any complaints.


Alan, I know how important it is to greet customers!  We are no stranger to market, we used to run a native plant nursery.  I also owned and ran my own retail business for 7 years, 6 days a week....  So glad to be out of it!  I have the real advantage of knowing half the town by sight if not name.


Our market is Saturday morning spring to fall.  We have to be in town and set up in our stall by 8am.   While I would love to have hot bread to sell, it does not seem practical given the farm chores I have to do every day.  We will also be selling produce.   I plan to bake all day Fridays.  Does anyone have any more hints about market to pass on?

swtgran's picture
swtgran

How do you have enough loaves of fresh bread to sell at the market?  Do you bake all week and freeze them, then thaw them the day of the sale?  I have thought I would like to try this but could never figure out the logistics.


I have sold sticky buns to people I know, by preparing them in their pans and sending them unbaked, the night before, with morning baking instructions.  They apparently thought $20 a pan for unbaked sticky buns was worth it.  Terry R

AlanTheBreadGuy's picture
AlanTheBreadGuy

When we opened our bed and breakfast years ago, we knew that it would take some time to build the business.  So we bought a second-hand 20 quart Hobart mixer and a second-hand Garland/Vulcan convection oven (electric).  We set them up in our amply-sized kitchen along with two IKEA cabinets (with wooden countertops bolted together and to the floor) to act as island/workspace.  These, and the installation, cost us about $3,000 - it should still cost about the same in today's dollars (check online classifieds such as Craigslist or your local used restaurant supply house).  The oven wasn't the best for baking bread (no hearth), but it was electric, could be wired into our house electrical panel and didn't require venting (as a gas oven would).  (We have since learned that there are single-deck, electric ovens that, with the help of a "phase convertor", can be wired into your house electrical panel.)  To our surprise, our electricity consumption really wasn't as enormous as many people warned it would be.


I spent a good deal of Friday (day and night) prepping and baking.  I used sourdough and poolish starters for all my breads, as the final loaves "kept" (and of course tasted) better.  Each batch of dough in the mixer yielded between 6 and 10 loaves (depending on a variety's popularity).  Each tray could hold 6 loaves comfortably and each oven load could accommodate three trays (for smaller/more dense loaves, I used to squeeze in four trays).  Baguettes and focaccia were good, too, because they sold well and I could fit four trays of each in the oven - with five baguettes per tray.


So for a hopping Summer market, there would be about ten oven-loads of bread, with an extra oven-load each for the baguettes and focaccia.  I tell you, I never pulled that many all-nighters in my life - not even at school.  When the last of the loaves came out of the oven, there was usually just enough time to shower and eat a bit of breakfast before loading up the mini-van and heading off to market.  Needless to say, I slept well in the afternoon.


View of me (nevermind the cheesy smile) in my old kitchen and at the market.


Not a great photo, but you can kinda get the idea.  The oven was in the back corner and the mixer was just to the right of it on a platform on the floor.  The flour was in bins just to the right of that.  For the market, we got some free wooden crates from our local produce importer and lined them with easy-to-wash cotton cloth.  It still amazes me that the market only charged us $15 a week for the use of the table.


It was a great addition to our B & B (couldn't beat the smell) and the income was very nice, too.  I've moved on to other things, but I still miss the market.

swtgran's picture
swtgran

Alan, that was an impressive amount of bread you did in one evening!!!!!!!!!!!!

AlanTheBreadGuy's picture
AlanTheBreadGuy

I still look back sometimes in amazement.  I think the expression is, "I did it because I didn't know it couldn't be done."

Zenbirder's picture
Zenbirder

Alan,


WOW!  I don't even want to contemplate baking as many loaves as you did!


Your post made me laugh.  We are so rural that:


There is no local Craigslist or IKEA,


There is no restaurant supply house closer than a four hour drive and you have to drive two hours to even see a small mall,


If I did make 200 loaves, there are not enough market customers to buy them all!


 


Our market charges a flat $4 for sales under $75, and 4% for sales over $75.  I am hoping to supplement the produce with baked goods, in part because in our climate there are good years for growing and some bad.  We never know if the curly top virus will kill out most of the tomato crop, which is one of the biggest money makers.  We are not in a very agricultural area, produce in the stores is rarely fresh and I get top dollar for locally grown food.  For example, we put 1/4 pound of green beans in a bag and charge $2.  We sell out quickly, and that is $8 a pound!  I get $3 a dozen for eggs, and can not keep up with demand.  So I am getting 25 new chicks tomorrow, whoopee!  I am growing a large number of varieties of sweet peppers this year also.


 


I do not know how much bread I will be comfortable baking, but I am finding out that as I practice it is getting easier.  I am refining my recipes.  Yesterday I concentrated on the three grain loaf (wheat, barley and oat), and got the size to exactly 1 1/2 pounds.  I also got in my order of bags to sell the bread in, only 500 but it should last me the season.



 

AlanTheBreadGuy's picture
AlanTheBreadGuy

Sometimes I forget how lucky we are living where we do.  Our city has 32,000 people in it, but we are 45 minutes from two cities of over 350,000 people and just 90 minutes from Toronto (pop. over 3,000,000).  But we are surrounded by farms and so I do have some feel for the difficulty your profession presents.  (Love the story of the farmer who won the lottery and, when asked what he was going to do with his winnings, said, "Oh, you know, we'll just keep farming until it's all gone.")


eBay is everywhere and most vendors ship right to where you are.  If you do want to go a little bigger, talk to the local variety/general stores.  Also, talk to the folks at your local supermarket (however big it is/isn't, they all sell bread and baked goods).  Do you have a local diner?  If so, they make sandwiches and might serve rolls with their meals.  Playing up the 'locally produced' label helps.  And you won't be the first to do this.  Most farmers in North America are struggling to find ways to hang on to their land.  Might be worth some thought.


Either way, keep baking.  By the looks of things, you're good at it.  And there isn't much that beats it.

flourgirl51's picture
flourgirl51

So  do you have to have a certified kitchen for this? I sell bread and other things at our local farmers market and I sell out every week. I have a large home gas oven but am seeing the need for another oven down the road.


I have seen pictures of some markets online where the artisan breads are displayed in baskets unwrapped. Where I live everything has to be wrapped and labeled with ingredients and other info. From what I understand, if you sell over $5000.00 of product in a market season you have to be licensed and have a certified kitchen. This is MN- just wondering what other states are doing.


I also grow our certified organic wheat and stone grind it for my breads. People really seem to like the flavor.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Our (Michigan) farmer's markets cannot allow any homemade goods to be sold unless the seller has had their kitchen inspected and certified by the local health department.  The health dept. certification must be presented to the farmer's market manager before you can open shop.


St. Paul, MN refuses to allow ANY homemade or baked items to be sold at a farmer's market.  http://www.ci.stpaul.mn.us/DocumentView.asp?DID=3565


I don't have time right now to research the Minnesota statutes, flourgirl, but I do think you would be very wise to call your local health department to confirm that you need no inspection certificates or permits to sell homemade foodstuffs to the general public.


We live in a very litigious society...


 


 


 

flourgirl51's picture
flourgirl51

I have been to numerous trainings on farmers markets in our state and have the state manual as well. The St. Paul thing must be an individual market rule as in MN you can sell breads and things under $5000.00 per year without a certified kitchen. Same goes for jams and pickles.

AlanTheBreadGuy's picture
AlanTheBreadGuy

As some people get more and more paranoid about their food, health inspection agencies tend to get more stringent about making more/enforcing rules.  But it varies from region to region, and, in our experience, sometimes from inspector to inspector.  Here in Ontario, Farmer's Markets used to be exempt from most inspection rules; that is now changing. 


Our kitchen was inspected, but because we weren't handling meat, that only happened once per year (restaurants, food shops, etc are inspected every month).  The inspectors usually did a tour of the market once or twice per year to see how everyone was handling the food.  I hated putting my bread into plastic bags (not good either for the environment or for the crust I worked so hard to make), but paper bags didn't allow my customers to see what they were buying before they bought.  I had my bread piled in cloth-lined, wicker baskets with a clear sheet of plexi-glass in front of each to act as sneeze-guard.  The inspector wanted to see the sneeze-guard and me using a "waxie" (small, disposable sheet of wax paper from a box dispenser) to pick up each loaf of bread and place it in the paper bag.  I usually left the waxie in the bag with the loaf to help remind the "more squeamish" of my customers that I didn't use my money-grubbing hands to touch their bread.


The inspector also saw that I had ready access to a sink to wash my hands and a bottle of hand-sanitizer (which, for a variety of reasons, I never use) on my table.


And I'm willing to bet that if you are spending time to coax maximum flavour out of that just grown and ground wheat that your loaves are fabulous and quite popular.  I'm a little sad that you are so far away.


Happy baking and selling!

cdnDough's picture
cdnDough

At the risk of going off-topic, which Ontario market are you selling at Alan?

patishaffer's picture
patishaffer

I have come across this oven for a cheap price and was wondering if it would be good for baking bread. I am considering making the investment and starting a small business baking bread from fresh milled grains. Any suggestions would help. Thanks


PIZZA BAKERY COMMERCIAL 3 DECK OVEN GEMINI SVEBA DAHLEN BRICK STOVE,MODEL # DC 33 Classic Deck Oven Series

AlanTheBreadGuy's picture
AlanTheBreadGuy

Sorry I didn't see your question until now.  I am no longer baking professionally (career change), but I was at the Stratford Farmer's Market.  In and of itself, it's a good little market.  In a town this size (pop. 32,000), it's a great little market.  Check it out if you are in the area.  ( http://www.stratfordfairgrounds.com/market.html )

AlanTheBreadGuy's picture
AlanTheBreadGuy

I've never heard of this brand of oven, but a little digging found that they are a Swedish company.  But having never heard of them, I know nothing of their reputation.  So here are some questions to ask the current owner:


1) How old?  Not always a reliable indicator, but a good start.  If we are looking at the same oven (Craigslist, Baltimore/Philadelphia?), it looks like it has had a bit more use than the owner is letting on.  How heavily it was used is more important than age; better to have an old oven that hasn't been used much than a relatively new oven that has been abused.


2) What kind of shape are the electricals in?  Wiring in good shape?  What kind of electricity does it use?  Check with your electrician to find out if your building electrical supply is compatible (single phase? three phase?).


3) What kind of shape are the deck stones in?  Look for cracks.


4) Availability of replacement/repair parts.  You don't want to have to have parts shipped in from Sweden if/when you need them.


5) What are the dimensions?  What is the height of the inside of each deck?  (You'll want it be at least 8 inches.)  How much bread will each deck hold?  What size trays/baking sheets will each deck hold (if you ever intend to bake food on trays/sheets, what size will it take - if each deck is just big enough to hold one 18" x 24" tray, are you okay with that?)?  And will it fit through the door of the place you intend to set it up in? 


That's all I can think of right now.  I'm sure others may have questions you should ask.  Let me know if there is anything else; I'm happy to help.


cheers

patishaffer's picture
patishaffer

Thank  you so much for your help, much needed help!!! yes it is Baltimore and the person selling it is not the owner. He has it in a warehouse and he doesn't know if it works. I will be contacting him with all these questions when I go to look at it and see if there are any local companies that can do repairs on it. It is missing some knobs and that all that I know about the condition so far. Thanks again !!!!

AlanTheBreadGuy's picture
AlanTheBreadGuy

Be very careful.  Be prepared to not fall in love with it and to walk away.  There are a lot of ovens out there because pizza shops are trading in their deck ovens for conveyor belt ovens.  And the right one is worth waiting for, and maybe paying a little extra for.  His price may be a little high.  Chances are, any local company that can fix this (if it needs fixing, that is) will probably have a better oven to sell you (that they will have fixed and will guarantee, deliver and set up for you). 


Good luck.  Let us know how it works out.

patishaffer's picture
patishaffer

I will heed your warning. I agree that it easy to fall in love at first sight. I called my son last night and asked if he would be able to look at it and be able to check it out. He doesn't work on ovens but he puts together machines that put labels on the items that come from the bakeries. Even though he doesn't work on the ovens he has been around them. He is one of those smart ones who can fix almost anything. I'm a proud mama. I will also check out the local companies and ask my son if he knows of any. Funds are tight so I want to make the best decisions and I am not afraid to ask and listen to advise. I will keep you up to date on any progress. I have noticed that this oven has been on craigslist for a while so that is telling me that someting is wrong with it.

patishaffer's picture
patishaffer

Hi, just letting you know of the status of my search. There was another oven listed in Halifax just north of Harrisburg.  It was listed on 3/8 under the Reading. This is a propane oven,Blogett 981 &951. It is old I want to call and see how old it is. He is offering the oven, a Middleby Marshall mixer Model 620g that shows some paint peeling on it, and a bakery rack for $2500. I did go and look at it and he had it hooked up and running. When I spoke to him about electric vs propane he said that propane is more efficient than electric. My husband thinks that electric would be better with fuel prices so high. What is your thought on that? He also has a box refrigerator for $50, it needs the floor replaced and the wire shelves are starting to rust. I had my son-in-law with me who works for a plumber look at it to see if he could fix it up and if it works he said it is worth $50. I will be transforming half of my garage into the bakery and it will be no problem getting equipment in as long as I have the help.

AlanTheBreadGuy's picture
AlanTheBreadGuy

I'm afraid that I was unable to find the listing you mentioned, so am not able to comment directly on what you saw.  However, this has never kept my big mouth shut before (character flaw; I'm working on it).


First, the easy one.  Don't buy the fridge.  I bought one of those that you describe and within days of its arrival the temperature started to rise in it.  Long story short, the refrigeration guy told me that the current environmental laws prohibited him from replacing the freon until he was certain that he had plugged all the leaks...leaks that would probably take all day to find and plug resulting in a repair bill that would make it cheaper to just buy a new one.  I found another used soda fridge from a local, reputable restaurant supply company which came with a one year warranty.  It's still working fine.


Second, I have never heard of Middleby Marshall mixers or ovens until your post prompted an online search.  There were quite a few offerings of used equipment out there, but I couldn't find a manufacturers' site.  If you are going to be baking bread, you are going to need a strong and sturdy mixer (think metal gear driven, rather than rubber belt driven).  Regardless of which equipment you buy, however, you are eventually going to need repair parts and quite probably someone to do the repairs. 


So here is what I think you need to so.  Find that guy (or company) right now.  Pick his brains.  He will know which ones break down most frequently, which ones are easy to get parts for, which ones are designed for easy (and therefore inexpensive) repairs, and which ones will likely keep you up and baking for a long time.  Heck, he might even have a lead on where you can get good equipment.  Sound good?  Anyone disagree?


Third is the issue of fuel.  I'm not 100% sure which is "more efficient" - gas or electric (alot of it has to do with how well they are insulated, anyway).  What I do know is startup costs.  You buy an electric oven, you plug it in and you begin baking.  You buy a gas oven and you not only have to hook it up, you have to purchase and install a gas tank (if it is propane), install a hood/fan/extractor above it, get it inspected (building and/or fire departments) and make sure it never runs out of gas.  As well, I'd check with your insurance provider for differences in rates between the two types of ovens.  I would guess that gas ovens scare them more and would therefore cost more.  A reasonably well-insulated electric oven, with a 1-1/2 to 2 inch thick stone deck isn't going to lose much heat when the door is open for loading and unloading.  Gas ovens recover more quickly from sudden temperature drops, but are vented and lose a lot of heat in their bid to keep the baker safe from noxious exhaust.  Differences in the cost of these fuels depend on where you are located. 


So maybe best to find and consult with that repair guy.  Anyone else have any other thoughts?