It began with a small grain crushed between stones thousands of years ago and could be ending with double olive, extra cheese, roasted tomatoes pesto focaccia. Yes, Europe, apparently, has had its fill of bread. According to a new report from market analysts Datamonitor, the bread and roll market in western Europe has reached saturation point.
But by no means has this phenomenon happened over night - more like several thousand. History would suggest that we have the Egyptians to thank for inventing the closed oven some 3000 years ago. A move which gave birth to the backbone of our diet - bread. And now, many billions of loaves later, it would seem that we've had enough. A clear sign that we are living in a privileged part of the world.
Datamonitor writes that the traditional and healthy food category of bread and rolls continues to dominate the western European bakery and cereals market. However, its dominance will decline over the next few years due to the mature nature of the market.
German consumers are highly health conscious and love traditional foods. Their bread and rolls market is the largest in Europe, with total spend amounting to a huge $9.3 billion (€8.6bn) in 2002. In the UK, bread and rolls account for 40 per cent of the bakery and cereals market revenue and are the nation's main source of fibre. Industrially produced goods dominate these two massive markets.
Countries with a less developed bread and rolls market have a proportionally larger artisanal sector, continues the report. But Datamonitor predicts that as the market increases in value, larger players will move in and bread will increasingly be produced industrially. Industrial goods are cheaper to produce and so can be sold at a lower retail price than artisanally produced goods. This reduction in cost to the consumer further increases the popularity of the product.
In Spain, for example, artisanal products account for over three quarters of all bread and roll sales. Bread and rolls form a less significant part of the diet when compared to other European countries. In fact, Spain has one of the lowest per capita bread and roll consumption levels in Europe.
Sweet biscuits account for the second largest share of the European bakery and cereals market. In the Netherlands, they account for 25 per cent of the bakery and cereals market revenue. Worth $1.6 billion in 2002, Germany is western Europe's fourth-largest sweet biscuit market.
As bread and rolls reach maturity in most European countries, the food industry will be obliged to turn to the introduction of new products in other sectors. Sweet biscuits, where there is still potential for further growth, could take a major slice with products such as reduced fat biscuits set to drive growth.