Interview with a wholesale baker

We address our questions to a successful wholesale baker who runs his business in the 4th generation as a family business. He has around 150 employees (f/m/d). His baking business is located in Germany, on the periphery of a city with a population of about 170,000.

How would you describe the structure of your baking business?

The answer of the wholesale baker: The baker's trade was characterized by the affiliation of the salesroom and its own bakery. My ancestors also had their shop in the city and their bakery directly attached. Baking was adapted to their own needs. The number of such shops with attached bakery has decreased in the last four decades. Mindful of this trend, my father - more than 30 years ago - had implemented a daring idea. He erected an efficient bakery on a greenfield site. He then established his own bakery locations in designated places. Today, we have more than 50 of them, each located no further than 25 kilometers from the main plant. We have our own fleet of vehicles. In this way, we supply our bakery shops with fresh goods 3 to 4 times a day. We try to avoid empty runs by procuring parts of the raw materials ourselves.

Your shops offer a wide range of products. During the day, a wide variety of baked goods are in demand. All pastries must be freshly produced daily in the company's own bakery. How do you manage to estimate and provide reasonably accurate needs?

The answer of the wholesale baker: Digitalization opens up many interesting opportunities for us. Our cash registers deliver permanently usable data to our head office. We have been collecting and sorting the data there for many years. There are collaborations with various scientists. AI-based software allows us to make predictions that become more and more accurate over time. Our baking production has to react faster and faster.

Consumer behavior has now changed once again, and Corona has accelerated this. In the past, we could compare the days of the week well, the beginning and the end of the month were always subject to certain influences. The consumer had fixed shopping habits. Now start-up delivery services are influencing our situation as well. Consumers can access supplies 24/7. As a result, planning is becoming even more challenging for us bakers.

Thus, your baking facility should always react quickly to daily events. Doesn't that pose a conflict of goals with your drive for more automation for an effective bakery?

The answer of the wholesale baker: Yes, that is exactly the case. Automation only works profitably if all preparatory efforts have been made. This is why a highly automated baking operation has difficulties with spontaneous product changes. Our bakery is equipped with modern, technical equipment with many effective work conveniences. Ultimately, however, the bakery craft still works manually at our company. Well-trained employees are the essential factor.

What does this mean in terms of the baking agents you use, with regard to availability, shelf life and universal applicability?

The answer of the wholesale baker: Baking agents should be as natural as possible in the future. Preservatives or artificial additives in the doughs are suspect to us bakers. It would be awesome if there was just one all-natural baking agent that we could use in all of our baked goods.

Considering that we produce our assortment fresh every day, the issue of shelf life of baking agents is less important for us. Baking agents and ingredients are freshly delivered to us every day - mostly by our cooperative network, which is excellently positioned in terms of logistics.

Our products also have a much longer shelf life beyond their appearance. We give leftover goods to charitable institutions that use them to provide for people in need. What may then be left over is given to agriculture as a feed additive.

Is there a demand among your customers regarding low-carb pastries?

The answer of the wholesale baker: Such requests are indeed becoming more and more frequent, we want to try and comply with such wishes. For example, by using regionally grown field beans. We promote this as a local, protein-rich superfood. Definitely, baking agent factories also want to help us bakers serve consumer trends.

What does this mean for the baking industry? Should modern baking agents have more extensive functions, for example with regard to binding water, mouthfeel, crispness, long-term consistency, visual appearance of the pastry? Should pastries possibly also work as functional foods with new physiological properties?

The answer of the wholesale baker: Baking agent manufacturers are increasingly offering new, natural raw material components. Such baking agents contain, for example, apple fibers, chia seeds, extracts of soybeans, carob gum, guar gum, cranberry, or proteases from kiwi or pineapple. Large baking agent manufacturers have the know-how to advise us and to supply us accordingly. Depending on the product, there are different requirements. However, it is very difficult for me as a master baker to specify this. However, what we really urgently need is that we do not find anything in the baking agent that needs declaration.

How do you assess the significance of gluten-free convenience mixes and baked goods? What does this mean for the baking agents used?

The answer of the wholesale baker: My bakery cannot offer gluten-free baked goods, as we always have the risk of cross-contamination from flour dust in the air or in plants. That's why we work with partner companies that specialize in baking gluten-free goods.

However, we successfully offer wheat-free products. These are bought by more and more customers who have a wheat intolerance. However, they do not suffer from celiac disease.

With regard to baking agents, this means from my point of view that we have to make raw materials compatible with each other again in such a way that we can obtain a suitable baking result even if no wheat flour is involved. I would say that the properties of the baking agent depend on the final product. It would be great, of course, if there was a baking agent for all applications and that without any declaration requirement.

The flour quality itself is not a big concern for us. The mills try to get the best out of the grain from the respective harvest and meet our requirements quite well. The natural fluctuations in quality are then compensated with specially adapted baking agents.

When it comes to creating new pastry offerings, how well do you feel supported by your baking agent supplier?

The answer of the wholesale baker: The market for bakery improvers is large and the producers regularly make offers. In this field, too, we have our long-standing partners with whom we work reliably. When needed, we ask them and receive offers on current or seasonal topics. Our customers are less hip than in big cities. From my point of view, we benefit from the fact that we don't have to follow every trend and can wait and see what prevails on the market for now.

Does it make sense to try to establish unique selling points via new pastry creations?

The answer of the wholesale baker: Unique selling points are definitely important. I believe that the unique position is not only due to our pastries, but also to the services that distinguish us from market competitors. The range of pastries can of course also be important, especially to satisfy seasonal customer needs. Consumers are becoming more sensitive and we, as bakers, want to avoid preservatives. We need “declaration-friendly” baking ingredients. The consumer wants to know what's in it.

The regional origin of our raw materials and also the overall cultural or social commitment of my company in the region can reinforce our reputation and our unique position.

It seems useful to us that we differentiate ourselves from other suppliers when it comes to pastry products. Artisanal production is definitely different from industrial production. Baking agents are also used in doughs & masses in the sweet sector. Dough rest and certain production processes are mostly more gentle in artisan baking and thus distinguish the products; not only during kneading, but also during shaping, settling and storage.

Which quality features are becoming more and more important for consumers? To what extent do they possibly have an impact on baking agents?

The answer of the wholesale baker: I think the freshness of our goods is one aspect, as well as, of course, shelf life, and the issue of "free from preservatives". Good digestibility of our baked goods is becoming more important, as well as meeting the needs of vegetarians and vegans. Their number is increasing.

 

Thank you for the interview and the interesting insights!