The Fresh Loaf

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The recession and artisan bakeries/baking - your thoughts please

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duncang's picture
duncang

The recession and artisan bakeries/baking - your thoughts please

Good Morning all!

I am setting up a small artisan bakery over here in England (UK) across the Atlantic from you guys, and wanted to hear every one's thoughts on how you see the impending economic downturn and possible recession that is upon us affecting small artisan businesses and bread trends?

A bit of a loaded question I know, but I would love to hear your thoughts nonetheless.

I'll start:

- I hope that the recession will mean more people getting into home baking rather than going out and buying cheap branded breads.

- Regardless of the recession there is a movement of people taking a keener interest in what they are eating and what additives and preservatives are in their foods... people are favouring traditional recipes with natural ingredients over chemicals and commercially produced products.

I really look forward to hearing your thoughts... if you have seen any articles in the press recently, include a web link!!

Many thanks,

Duncan

beeman1's picture
beeman1

From what I am hearing from the co-op that I belong to many more people are ordering wheat and other grain now.

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Very interesting post!

Recently, there was an article in a major Norwegian newspaper about the growth in number of smaller, "artisan" bakeries. The article presented two kinds of whole wheat bread, one from your average grocery store, and another from an artisan bakery. They went to the lab, and studied the ingredients, the nutritious value of each bread etc., and came to the conclusion that they couldn't find a noticeable difference between the mass-produced loaves and the handmade ones in terms of the lab results. The price tag on the handmade loaf was 7 or 8 times that of the mass-produced one. Now, taste and keeping qualities were not mentioned ;-)

The article raised some interesting questions to customers at the artisan bakery: "Why do you spend so much money on this bread, when you can get it much cheaper at the grocery store?" and so forth. Some said that they preferred the artisan bakeries, because they use eco-products, while others stated that they were still convinced the breads there were more healthy.

At least in these parts of the world, where we're not blessed with the rich boulangeries of France, purchasing bread at artisan bakeries are, at least in my opinion, a luxury. Most people can afford to buy good bread at smaller, specialized bakeries, but it's still a luxury. With oil prices going down (the Norwegian economy is driven to a large extent by oil exports), job cuts being announced, lots of people sitting on expensive mortgages etc., luxuries are what most people cut first.

The trend towards greater focus on personal health will probably continue, so I hope more people will start baking great breads in their home. Unfortunately for many small artisan bakeries, coffee and chocolate houses and the like, the downturn might have fatal consequences.

Hans Joakim

scottfsmith's picture
scottfsmith

My feeling is a recession is where you see how much people are really committed to something; there is no easy way to tell in advance.  And the results can be surprising.  For some people, artisan bread can be the "affordable luxury" relative to much more expensive consumables (electronics, cars, etc) and fancy vacations.  I would say that fancy chocolate is in worse trouble than artisan breads, because the former is more associated with conspicuous consumption than the latter.  Not only is there the monetary issue itself, there is the perception people want to make on their colleagues about their spending.  I know of a small soft drink company which managed to operate successfully all through the Great Depression; one would think people would cut back on that and they did, but it was an "affordable luxury" that people still wanted.  All that said, the artisan breadmakers could still be in for a very rough time depending on how bad this one is. 

 

Here is an article I read on how consumption is likely to be less conspicuous: 

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081029/ts_nm/us_financial_consumerism

I believe it is a UK story.

 

Scott

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Interesting that you have raised this topic. My wife and I were discussing this subject just yesterday. I am of the opinion that we are all in for a rude awakening. All over the World people are facing a meltdown of the financial markets and very base industries most thought unshakable. I don't like being a profit of gloom but to ignore the events of the last few Months is inviting ciaos. While I agree that conspicuous spending will go down, we will still find ways to feed those close to us. 

Families will go out to eat less which means staying home and more family at dinners. The center of the meal is, and has always been bread. I believe that people who know the difference between what we call "Gummy Bread" and artisan bread will still try to buy the better bread for their families. It's a small luxury that goes well with the foods that can be prepared with a budget in mind, soups, pasta and stews.

Your goal as an Artisan Baker in a small shop will be to make a good product for a reasonable price. If you can do that, I think there will be a place for your new enterprise in the coming years.  You won't get wealthy as a baker but you will have the satisfaction of knowing you are part of the solution and not the problem.

Eric 

staff of life's picture
staff of life

I don't know how strong the local food movement is in the UK, but this story is interesting nonetheless:

http://thestory.org/archive/the_story_632_A_Good_Risk.mp3/view

I agree with her that the local food movement is at odds with the economic situation, but I do think the local food movement has the edge.

SOL

Richelle's picture
Richelle

Hola Duncan, I can only tell you that my group of loyal customers is still slowly growing. Out here in rural Andalucía you just cannot buy an artisan loaf in a shop. I sell mine through word-of-mouth very locally and a village market-sale every once in a while. Once people have tried a loaf, they come back for another. They tell me they freeze part of the breads so that not a crumb gets the chance to get stale and they gladly pay a higher price for top quality ingredients. The trick is, in my honest opinion, not just to offer a better quality loaf, made with natural ingredients etc., but also some varieties no other bakery in your neighbourhood offers. A weekly special perhaps?

What works very good for me is free sampling... I think that's the best marketing tool a baker has, at very low cost. And a baker who is willing to sell the ingredients he uses himself (and can buy wholesale) for a top quality bread with just a marginal mark-up for handling and packaging, builds lots of goodwill with home-bakers....

I think you are a brave man and wish you all the best,

Richelle

wutan's picture
wutan

Duncan, I wish you the best of luck with your endeavor and I’m sure you will do well. Yes the world is changing and hopefully for the better, don’t worry about the recession…….. Do something you love…….. We are all allowed only so many years and the quality of life is determined not by how much money you make but by the amount of happiness you bring to others. Go ahead with the bakery and good luck….......

 Wutan Finder Of The Path

Traci's picture
Traci

While I think we all need to be realistic about the current and upcoming circumstances, I really appreciated the tone of your post, Wutan.

We *do* only have so much time, and its easy right now to make decisions to do or not do something based on fear. I hope I can emulate your viewpoint in my own choices, and Duncan, I hope you have wonderful success doing something you love.

Traci