Par-baked goods revolutionized the baking industry, but their ascendancy is creating new opportunities as consumers are drawn to the methods of the past.
Recently, I was in the bakery section of a large grocery store I frequent. I asked for a specific bread in a sandwich-style loaf that had been offered for the past few years. The employee said it was no longer available in that style because it is not made on site.
Naturally, I was disappointed; it was my favourite bread from that store. However, this event opened an opportunity for a small, local bakery to gain a customer (me) by offering to make the bread in the sandwich-style loaf I prefer.
The baking industry has evolved rapidly during the past 50 years, as technologies have developed to keep up with changing demands. One of the most influential of these, par-baking, allows the product to be baked to about 85 per cent, and then it’s flash frozen and shipped to customers where it’s baked to finish.
While par-baked products have allowed many mid- to large-size companies to expand their markets to national in-store retail bakeries and foodservice operations, they have also allowed opportunities for smaller companies to provide handmade specialty breads and baked products to a specific, local customer base.
Combined with the concentration of the retail grocery sector and chain foodservice operations, the advent of par-baked products has led to an increase in high-volume, homogenous goods that can be distributed efficiently from centralized, large-scale production facilities. Thus, the definition of the word “fresh” has evolved with these advances in technology and processes.
The trend to buy “fresh” supports the growth of in-store retail bakery outlets. Consumers often perceive bread baked to the finished product by in-store bakeries to be less processed than fully manufactured bread delivered and sold on site. Based on this trend, one of the conundrums for small artisan bakeries is that, as their original operation becomes successful, they find themselves in an opportunity to grow, expanding geographically in Canada and even into the United States. But this means they have to change their production and distribution methods to meet increased consumer demand.
Dufflet Rosenberg, founder of Dufflet Pastries in Toronto, offers some first-hand experience of this situation.
“Dufflet Pastries offers a few lines of products to meet the demand of the growing business,” she says. “Every Dufflet product is hand-crafted using only premium, natural ingredients, no preservatives, artificial colours or flavours. Some are baked, chilled and ready to serve products, while others are a frozen, thaw, ready to serve product.”
The frozen products allow for longer transportation time for customers farther away from Dufflet’s metro Toronto base as the demand for the product has expanded. Therefore, Dufflet Pastries successfully captures both markets – the foodservice sector (hotels, caterers, restaurants, etc.) and the local consumer.
Really, the opportunities are limitless for par-baked bread suppliers. For example, in the span of one day, more than 130 different styles of bread and 25 different types of dough can be made by a medium-sized bakery and shipped frozen to retailers throughout Canada to be finished on site as “fresh.”
However, the opportunity for that retailer receiving the par-baked breads to customize a specific order is minimal. The in-store bakery and foodservice markets are firmly entrenched in the par-baked systems; therefore, artisan bakers can now capitalize on that reality and create offerings of alternative handmade goods to increase exposure and sales to the local consumer who is looking for these kinds of products.
Artisan bakers are now organizing into educational, non-profit groups such as the Bread Bakers Guild of America and Canada’s Artisan Bakers Quality Alliance. They are made up not only bakers and bakery managers, but industry partners including farmers, millers, educators, home bakers and technical experts.
Focusing on the artisan baking community, these are bakers who utilize knowledge of traditional methodologies, are masters of hand skills and promote an appreciation for the best quality of raw materials and ingredients to produce baked goods that meet the highest possible standards of taste, appearance, aroma and texture.
When technology allowed for par-baked products that could later be completely baked by customers in their own ovens, the term “fresh” evolved in the industry. With it, opportunities for small individual bakeries specializing in handmade goods have grown as customers increasingly are looking for the individualistic, home-baked taste, texture and experience found in their local communities.
As we’ve seen in this 70th anniversary issue of Bakers Journal, the past holds a great deal of value and is something to be appreciated, not forgotten. Technology has made the industry more efficient and profitable, but as the major players have consolidated, niche markets are expanding as “fresh” returns to
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