KANSAS CITY — Michael Suas, the founder of the San Francisco Baking Institute and co-founder of the award-winning San Francisco retailer b. patisserie, has a succinct way to describe the future of artisan bread in the United States.
“Healthy but sexy,” Mr. Suas told Bake, a sister publication of Bakingbusiness.com.
Further, the challenge to future growth for artisan bread depends on the ability of bakers to produce whole grain and “healthy” bread that looks as “sexy” as it tastes.
“When you look at it, it looks great,” Mr. Suas said. “When you taste it, it tastes great. If it doesn’t taste good, don’t do it. Those types of breads are the worst to consume if not made properly.”
More and more consumers, driven by their desire for fresh food and their willingness to pay for quality, are looking to retailers for their artisan bread.
“Consumers are looking for items that are prepared instore,” Eric Richard, education coordinator for IDDBA, told Baking & Snack. “Whether that’s a supermarket or c-store, they’re looking for freshness. When people think instore bakery, they think freshness.”
Retailers simply showcasing the aroma of baking off par-baked bread can be instrumental in getting consumers to the counter. Whether it’s a baguette being scored or bread being pulled from the oven, shoppers can see the product being made, lending even more credence to the artisan feel.
C-stores have gotten into the act, with small kitchens and production areas where shoppers can see bread or pizza crusts being prepared in front of them. All of this leads to the feeling that these foods are fresher than the packaged product in the aisles.
“The focus and commitment on bread can really be a driver of traffic to the instore bakery,” Mr. Richard said. “It’s a place where you can get fresh, artisan bread that’s made throughout the day. It’s an overall experience that people are looking for, and seeing it made fresh makes them want to buy it.”
Bakers can enjoy that sweet spot, too, by offering retailers and restaurants bread varieties that come with a bit higher quality perception. Artisan touches such as scoring or ingredients such as ancient grains, seeds and nuts can help bakery items keep up with menus.
“Consumers don’t mind paying for preferences of quality,” said Cordia Harringon, chief executive officer of The Bun Cos., Nashville, Tenn. “If they want a wheat bun, and it’s an upscale wheat bun, they will pay money for that.”
Antoine Boule, managing director for Lesaffre, said what is striking is the growing diversity of the global bread marketplace. Some consumers seek out healthy bread. Others demand traditional bread. Still others want snacks.
“If you go to a German bakery, the selection is extraordinary,” Mr. Boule told Bake. “I see more crusty breads, and that segment is very much on the rise in many countries. The croissant is also very trendy. It is following crusty breads, and that is good.”
There is a multiplicity of segments, and the challenge for bakers is to adapt to a broader range of demands globally. Lesaffre has 38 baking centers worldwide to create breads of the future, Mr. Baule said.
BakeMark’s Westco brand has offered bakery ingredients for 90 years and is known throughout the baking industry for its consistent quality. Now, Westco is offering a line of artisan bread ingredients.
Every artisan bread offering contains a great line of crusty breads. Westco said its crusty bread bases offer great-tasting bread with crusty exteriors and soft interiors. These bases and pastes are designed for a platform of saving time and reducing labor costs while still offering enough flexibility to create signature crusty breads, baguettes and rolls.
Westco’s line also includes sourdough bases as well as bases for bagels, soft bread, and rye and pumpernickel bread. Its artisan dough improvers strengthen dough, increase shelf volume and extend shelf life.
Grain bread is also popular with consumers because of its interesting textures and flavors. Westco’s grain bread mixes and bases offer flavor through unique blends of grains and seeds while keeping consistency and convenience for production of artisan multi-grain and ancient grain bread and rolls.
Chad Robertson, founder of San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery, spoke recently about seeking out ancient wheat varieties like einkorn and testing batch after batch of other wheat varieties while experimenting with high-hydration dough. He said he learned the biggest factor in the flavor of bread is what is developed during fermentation.
“I’m really excited to try new flavors,” he said. “We are always trying to make what we do better. Tartine’s Country 2.0 is coming out next week. We believe in naturally leavened, fresh milled bread. My favorite grain being source now is einkorn being grown in North Dakota.”
Mr. Robertson said the early days of his now-famous shop were spent learning important lessons about artisan bread. That included baking every hour, changing the traditional schedule of baking bread very early in the morning and then presenting everything at one time.
Instead, Tartine would serve fresh croissants (and other bread) right out of the oven from the minute the bakery opened until closing time, baking batch after batch, and keeping customers happy to know they could enjoy Tartine’s fresh bread throughout the day.