“Industrial bread has no ‘identity’”
Mengoni: “Actually the Italian consumer is not very interested in industrial bread, undistinguished all over the Country, with no connections with the local, regional traditions. Anyway, the industrial production guarantees lower costs than the artisanal bakery products, thanks to economies of scale and to a supply chain covering the big shops and supermarkets. Moreover, an important disadvantage about industrial bread concerns the fact that the consumers’ imaginary is not struck by a product that is not fresh-made and linked to the local tradition; in brief a bread without “identity”.
Italian Confederation of Bakers is the leading representative of artisanal or boutique bakery facilities. It represents about 4000 associated self-employed and employers subjects. The head of the confederation Enzo MENGONI states that there are 300 different types of bread, officially registered. MENGONI stating that bakers should guarantee the quality of production and innovate in the production for consumers’ loyalty considering in particular the new, modern life-style and its healthy trends, says that artisanal bakery products are more preferred in Italy instead of industrial products. According to MENGONI, industrial production guarantees lower costs but the consumers’ imaginary is not struck by a product that is not fresh-made. Here are the details of Italian bakery market and consumers’ demands, stated by the head of the confederation MENGONI.
Mr. Mengoni, firstly could you please tell us about Italian Confederation of Bakers? What are the activities of your confederation, what is its role in the Italian bakery products industry?
Confartigianato Panificatori was founded to promote and protect the specific interests and goals of the artisanal bakery sector in Italy. It represents about 4,000 associated self-employed and employer subjects; it makes lobby towards the Italian Government, public and private organizations and the EU; in particular, it participates to consultation tables with entrepreneurs and workers organizations, and also in technical meetings at the EU level, with similar organizations of the other European countries.
It elaborates dossiers for the growth and development of the bakery sector, in order to “fasten” needs and opportunities. Confartigianato Panificatori is engaged also in preserving the cultural, economic and social heritage of the typical Italian handicraft productions in food in general and bakery sector in particular.
Could you please tell us about the Italian bakery industry? At which point is your industry in terms of product variety and facility scales?
Counting on about 300 different types of bread, officially registered and classified according to the production process, Italian bakery products are famous all over the world, thanks to their goodness, flavor and taste. But on the Italian families lunch table there are many other types of bread, not officially registered! This fact demonstrates the importance of historical tradition in bakery, in connection with different local (regional) gastronomical culture, religious traditions, and different types of wheat. In brief, in our Country bread and bakery are cultural phenomenons, preserved and transmitted all over the centuries by the mastership of Italian bakers, becoming in the modern age an important driver for economic growth.
What is the prevalence of industrial production? What are the differences, advantages and disadvantages between industrial and boutique production according to you?
For all the above reasons, actually the Italian consumer is not very interested in industrial bread, undistinguished all over the Country, with no connections with the local, regional traditions. Anyway, the industrial production guarantees lower costs than the artisanal bakery products, thanks to economies of scale and to a supply chain covering the big shops and supermarkets. Moreover, an important disadvantage about industrial bread concerns the fact that the consumers’ imaginary is not struck by a product that is not fresh-made and linked to the local tradition; in brief a bread without “identity”. On the other side, the artisanal bakery products are strongly committed with the local “identity”, they are more expensive than the industrial ones but they are sold in small shops (the so called “proximity shops”) with an important “face to face” relationship between the consumer and the baker. They, at last, have a higher price but that is considered “fair” because of the high quality of bread.
The number of the companies entering to the bakery products industry with industrial production is increasing in the world day by day. These companies give service especially with the frozen products. How do you evaluate this development? How do the industrial production and frozen products affect current bakery industry?
In our opinion, the introduction and development in Italy of industrial bakery products, made by frozen semi-processed products cannot be successful because it collides with the Italian gastronomical culture. Actually, in Italy there are several frozen products of national industries and also from abroad, made by Spanish, German and Romanian firms. Anyway, the commercial penetration is not so high and consumers’ opinions are not so positive about them. These products are sold exclusively in the major, biggest supermarket networks; the bread is pre-cooked. The final cooking is made in the supermarkets, with electric ovens, and the products are packed as labelled specifically as “bread obtained by precooked semi-processed materials, frozen or fresh”. It is also placed in specific containers, in order to keep it separated by fresh bread, so that the consumer can recognize it easily. This is mandatory, according to the Italian food legislation.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of industrial production for bakers?
The only advantage for bakers using the precooked materials is the saving of time for the preparation of bread, that will be “similar” to fresh bread but, as said above, the Italian food law does not permit to label it as “fresh bread”! The handicaps are connected to the production of standardized bread, with a low “appeal” for the consumers: they, instead, consider the freshness and organoleptic facts of food very important.
When we evaluate the market from the point of view of the consumers, what kind of change is there in the preferences and expectations of the consumers in your country for the bakery products?
According to important and accredited observers of Italian food sector, in Italy, the bread’s “primacy” is going to be attacked by new coming products, alternative but derived by it and, of course, cereal-based. They are, i.e. the “grissini” (small and thin sticks of bread), the crackers and similar. Anyway, these products are still made mainly by Italian artisanal firms. Furthermore, Italian bread and similar are appreciated and requested all over the world, form North Europe to Far East, especially the typical, regional breads, with the EU protection marks as DOP (certified and protected type) and IGP (geographical protected origin of the type): i.e. the “Altamura Bread” (in Apulia), the “Genzano bread” (in Latium), the “Ferrara’s Couple” bread (in Emilia Romagna region) and so on…
The production of every single protected bread-type implies the full respect of specific protocols of production and the presence of experts in the firms, holding training course for the young bakers.
What should the bakers do to please their customers and obtain their loyalty?
The modern artisan baker, in order to fulfill the consumers’ needing has to guarantee the quality of production, using more and more the EU marks of protection that identify the products which respect the specific protocols of production; he also has to innovate in the production, considering in particular the new, modern life-style and its healthy trends. This, in brief, means that he has to keep himself professionally up to date!
What do you think about Turkish market? What does Turkish market mean to you and how do you evaluate Turkish bakery market in terms of industrial bakery?
We actually do not know, specifically, the Turkish market: Anyway, the above mentioned reflections about the frozen products and the industrial breads have to be considered extended to the Turkey’s bakery products.
This does not mean that we are not interested in evaluating the potential of your market, developing relationship with local operators of bakery in Turkey.