The foodie culture in the US has changed the way Americans view the products they consume. The days of eating what was offered or choosing food based on claims of not having certain ingredients or being lower in this or that ingredient have begun to die out. The new diet fads taking over in recent years center on quality foods made with ingredients that the consumer can not only pronounce, but that they recognize.
Artisan bread gives the retail bakery a perfect in to that “foodie” demographic that pays less attention to health claims and more attention to ingredients and authenticity. Artisan breads also provide retail bakeries the opportunity to serve sandwiches on their new breads. Not only will this bring in a lunch crowd, but it will do wonders for early morning breakfast business.
What to Offer
While choosing exactly which artisan breads you want to offer at your bakery depends on where you’re located, who your customers are and what they want, you must start somewhere. Classics exist to begin with during the time in which you discover what your customers will buy and what is not worth your time. Another thing to consider is if and what sandwiches you will offer. This will play a role in the breads you decide to sell.
Customers will recognize bagels and baguettes easily. Both of these contain flour, water, salt and yeast. This combo is attractive to the foodie-type consumer as the list is short and understandable. The bagel will get boiled before baking and might incorporate a malted barley syrup into the boiling procedure for shine and flavor.
Bagels provide an excellent start to offering a number of sandwiches for both lunch and breakfast. A bakery can easily build a bagel sandwich menu with unlimited options for fillings and combinations. Eggs and breakfast meats for breakfast sandwiches and cold cuts and typical vegetable sandwich dressings for lunch remain staples. Also, think about gourmet and vegetarian offerings as well.
Baguettes will work for making sandwiches, but these French staples will most likely do better as cash and carry items. When producing artisan breads a good thing to remember is shelf life. Because artisan breads by nature use less ingredients, and natural ingredients, they will not last as long on the shelf. Bake small batches at first and see how they do. If you sell out, that’s great. If you don’t, you minimize your losses with smaller batches.
Up Your Game
If you find your customers enjoying the artisan bread, consider going to something a little more specialized. Batards and boules carry the same ingredients and procedures as a baguette. Because there’s minimal, if any, difference in the technique used to bake them, all you must do is shape them differently. For a batard, make the loaf fat and log shaped with tapered ends. Then score or slash the top symmetrically before baking. Make the shape fat and round for a boule and bake on a stone.
A brioche might appeal more to those who still want bread, but have a bit of a sweet tooth. Brioche contains elements of both a bread and a pastry. Made with flour, salt, sugar, yeast, butter and eggs, brioche has a rich flavor. You can produce it as a loaf or individual rolls and glaze it with an egg yolk and milk mixture for an added touch. This is a no knead bread where the batter is beaten to develop the gluten.
Sourdough, or pain au levain, will attract the consumer that’s a bread connoisseur. The process for a pain au levain differs from the other breads, takes more time and is more intricate and complex. Pain au levain requires a starter (culture), fermentation and follows procedures that are important for it to be correct. It’s worth the time and effort, but some help and a few practice runs would be good before throwing one together for sale.
These examples represent just a few of the options a retail bakery can explore when considering artisan bread options. Research and experiment with different artisan breads and ask customers what kind of breads they might be interested in. Get a good feel for the area in which you operate. Gauge the average customer income, ethnic diversity, etc., and go from there when choosing artisan breads to carry.
For the best help in the country
The Bread Bakers Guild of America has dedicated itself to advancing the artisan baking profession. The Guild is well known in the baking community as the go-to educational resource for substantive, accurate information on the craft of making bread. If you want to know how to make incomparable bread—mix it, ferment it, shape it, bake it and sell it, you've come to the right place. The materials and activities generated by The Guild are available nowhere else! They represent the cutting edge in providing the tools needed to produce the highest quality bread products.