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Ready-to-bake bread vs local bakery

14 March 2013 / 22:03:03  GRReporter
3732 reads

Victoria Mindova

I had never thought a lot about the bread I buy until I happened to read a few years ago an article about ready-to-bake bread. The article read that there was dough kneaded in distant lands, full of preservatives and frozen. It continued explaining that a fast procedure called "bake off" and mainly used by large retail chains baked it and the ready-to-bake bread was being sold as hand-made rather than industrial bread. According to the Hellenic Federation of Bakers, the state has to put a special sign to distinguish the bakeries that offer freshly kneaded and baked bread from those which use frozen ready-to-bake dough imported from third countries.

This made me contact the head of the Federation of Bakers Michalis Mousias. He has explained to me that the ready-to-bake bread is most often found in supermarkets and large chains offering bakeries and confectioneries and that its appearance does not differ from the ordinary hand-made bread of the local bakery. The expiry date of the ready-to-bake dough can be after a year and a half and it can be stored in dozens of warehouses, transported thousands of kilometres and consumed long after the original date of production.

Although I consider myself a modern person taking full advantage of the social, economic and cultural benefits of globalization, the perspective that I might be eating Chinese bread in Athens, bearing in mind that Greece is famous for its traditional local bakeries, seems quite repulsive to me. It turns out that the majority of Greeks including me have been living quite unaware of the fact that supermarkets offer bread of ready-to-bake dough. Although the average consumer is not aware of the origin and kneading of dough, 89% of Greeks believe that the bread of local bakeries tastes better than the bread offered in supermarkets as shown by the data of the marketing research and communication company MARC, which carried out research of the market of bakery products this February.

Under the operating legal framework, supermarkets are obliged to display warning signs that the bread they offer is made of frozen ready-to-bake dough and, if it is imported, to provide information of the country of origin. "This is not happening," the head of the Federation of Bakers Michalis Mousias said at a press conference this week. Two years after the first research of the sector, the Federation commissioned a second market analysis to follow its development. The results, however, are not encouraging. Mousias stresses that the controlling authorities are not doing their job. They do not require large chains to place visible signs indicating the ingredients of the bakery products, thereby misleading the customers into believing that they are buying hand-made rather than industrial bread.

Unfair competition as regards small producers of fresh hand-made bread is probably one of the smallest problems in the industry taking into account the deepening economic crisis. Over 90% of bakery owners, who took part in the poll, say their turnover in 2012 fell by an average of one third compared to 2011. One in four consumers questioned states that he or she buys bread every day. There is a drop compared to two years ago, when every second Greek household bought fresh bread every day. According to the same poll, one in four states that he or she consumes less bread than a year ago. 23% of respondents with lower consumption of bread say the reduction is due to financial difficulties. There is also a significant drop in the consumption of confectionary, which reaches 40%.

Over the next two years, 3,000 local bakeries of hand-made bread across the country are expected to close, which means that about 20,000 jobs will be lost. "The bakery is a family business in Greece. Three family members and one or two employees worked in a bakery before the crisis and there was a wage for all of them. Now, the whole family is working, but there is only one wage. To respond to the reduced turnover, many people have dismissed their staff and continue to run the business alone," states Mousias.

Larger amounts of bread in Greece are still sold by small producers. Despite the reduced turnover, bakers are determined to withstand the pressure of the crisis. The years of industrialization have not consolidated the production of bread in Greece as is the case in the countries of south-eastern Europe. There is a tradition and a close link between the consumer and the baker in the Mediterranean country. An example of this is my mother-in-law. In the last 40 years, she almost always buys bread from the same bakery in the neighbourhood, where she had come as a bride, raised her children and where she is still living in her old age.

I cannot say as a consumer that I have a nostalgic attachment to the local bakery, as is the case with many of my friends. However, the idea of ​​buying bread that has crossed half of Europe or travelled the Silk Road to reach my table is not appealing to me. Besides, the hand-made bread of the small baker is more delicious than the one bought from the supermarket, even when it becomes stale. However, I must admit that sometimes I find myself among the 5.5% consumers, who reach for the bread in the supermarket. It is easier to check it in the list of purchases than to spare some time to go to the local bakery, but I am planning to change that because I am going to put quality over convenience.

Tags: EconomyMarketsBreadReady-to-bakeBakery
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