Better than sliced bread: The evolution of bakery catering

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Bakers need to add another dimension to their business to stay relevant. Pic: GettyImages/George Peters
Bakers need to add another dimension to their business to stay relevant. Pic: GettyImages/George Peters

Related tags Sirha Europain snacking bakery catering on the go better for you plant based premiumisation masterclass

More affordable than restaurant and most fast-food offerings – and arguably a better quality and healthier option than what’s found in supermarket – the snacking category in the bakery sector is fast becoming a class of its own.

Working people who have less time for lunch beyond their desks are increasingly turning to this mode of consumption, as are time- and cash-strapped students and families looking for convenient, ready-to-eat meals.

In response to this growing demand, bakers are quickly finding their place in the snacking market. In fact, it’s no longer merely an option, but a strong lever of additional sales for these professionals, who must adapt to new consumption patterns.

Snacking facts

  • GettyImages businessman with bread Shaf Bdn
    Pic: GettyImages/Shaf Bdn
    71% of people eat a snack at least twice a day worldwide (Mondelez International, The Harris Poll and Ispos)
  • 86% of people regularly snacked in 2021, compared with 78% in 2013 (Vigie Alimentation 2022 by Futuribles)
  • 75% of Gen Z are eat a meal while on the move (GlobalData)
  • 69% of millennials prefer multiple snacks to meals (GlobalData)
  • 50% of consumers worldwide enjoy takeaway food at least once a week (GlobalData)

The trend towards fresher, healthier lunch-on-the-go is, however, evolving.

The standard sandwich is not enough – it needs to be elevated to continue winning over the consumer who is in search of variety and excitement. Although still popular, the traditional ham & cheese on fluffy white is giving way to plant-based alternatives, more upscale ingredients like salmon and truffles, and artisanal breads.

Ode to street food

French ladies eating a baguette stockfour
Pic: GettyImages/stockfour

While each country has its own speciality – bruschetta in Italy, pan con tomato in Spain, Vietnam’s bánh mìt and the Philly cheesesteak in the US – street food is at the heart of contemporary bakeries.

Grégory Guerguerian, founder of JUNi Armenian Bakery located in the 14th​ Arrondissement in Paris, France, believes bread is the ideal vehicle to share his culture and heritage.

“Bread is a common, everyday product that it needs no introduction or explanation,”​ he said.

More importantly, “it acts as a link between all European cultures, being an omnipresent element in every home. The oven – used to bake bread – is also a unifying element that transcends cultural boundaries.

The bakery sector, he said, “has demonstrated – particularly during the Covid pandemic – that it is much more than just a place to buy products. It embodies a real social bond, anchored in the hearts of everyone.

“Introducing Armenian bakery to France gives me great pleasure, and the growing interest shown by our customers bears witness to their curiosity to discover new flavours.

“Our menu traces my family’s journey over the last four generations, from Turkey to Lebanon/Syria and finally to the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. In this way, each dish becomes a living page in our history, offering an immersive gastronomic experience.”

Elisa Gautier, who opened her restaurant Kiosk in the 10th​ Arrondissement bang in the middle of the pandemic – when nobody would have bet on success – also believes bread crosses all boundaries. Especially sourdough.

“In recent years, sourdough has gained in popularity, revealing its magical powers (digestibility, taste, preservation, among others),”​ she said.

“For decades, industrial bread had taken over, causing gluten levels to rise dramatically, leading to fierce intolerances. Mass consumption meant rapid production, which meant chemical yeast and processed flours.

“Sourdough has slowly begun to nuance the landscape, a trend confined mainly to the big cities for the moment, but in my opinion there's no stopping it.”

Both Guerguerian and Gautier will be taking to the Bake & Snack stage at Sirha Europain to share their experiences, insight and advice to bakers wishing to adapt to consumer demands.

“I'd like professionals to understand that it's often cheaper and much more practical to eat in season, because seasonal means large quantities and therefore lower prices,”​ added Gautier.

“As a restaurateur, you can make a mountain out of a molehill of practices that are, in fact, extremely simple to put in place, such as composting, reusing waste (bread waste to transform it into breadcrumbs, tart bases, crumbles, etc.).

“Creativity is born out of constraint,” ​she emphasised.

A major growth driver for bakeries

Bakers eating bread Getty
Pic: GettyImages

For four, jam-packed days – from 21 to 24 January at the Paris Port de Versailles – the 3,000m2 ​exhibition space of Sirha Europain will be dedicated to showcasing products, ingredients, equipment and packaging for the bakery sector. A new feature this year is the focus on snacking – or bakery catering – with the Bake & Snack stage set to hold masterclasses and roundtables dedicated to inspire, encourage, discover and teach.

While bread remains a staple around the world, bakeries need to adapt to new consumer trends, particularly at lunchtime. This evolution is closely linked to the changing eating habits of consumers who are looking for fast, healthy, gourmet, nomadic and affordable options for their lunch break.

The sweet spot

Range of sweet baked goods redmal
Pic: GettyImages/redmal

Snacking preference varies around the world. According to research by The Harris Poll for Mondelez International, Europeans typically eat more salty snacks, while North Americans are more inclined towards sweet snacks. However, sweet bakery is growing in popularity.

For this reason – if they haven’t already done so – bakeries are extending their range of sweets to include more exotic twists on popular products such as waffles, brownies, cookies and muffins. Some are even taking advantage of viral trends to set themselves apart, such as New York Rolls, the American pastry that was a smash hit on TikTok.

Digitalising snacking

Snacks online search choochart choochaikupt Polyudova_Yulia
Pic: GettyImages/Polyudova_Yulia

The pandemic was a catalyst of change for many bakeries. The need to adapt led to the emergence of home deliveries and click-and-collect. These new modes of consumption were quickly adopted by customers and are still in play today.

In fact, according to Mondelez’s third annual State of Snacking report, 47% of adults worldwide said they started buying snacks online more often than instore during the Covid crisis, but 7 out of 10 plan to continue this habit.

Snacking on the show floor

Trade show Getty VISION4RY-L4NGU4GE
Pic: GettyImages/VISION4RY-L4NGU4GE

Attendees to Europain will have the opportunity to find out more about the challenges facing the sector, including:

Round Table

Business in a different way, building your offer

A point of view shared by two professionals, including Christophe Louie (Christophe Louie's bakery) & Sylvain Hanriot-Collin(Paume de Pain bakery) will host the discussion – aimed at project leaders and budding entrepreneurs – with advice on how to define their business model, build their offer, communicate and distribute.


Hot dog

Loïc Pires, director of Operations at Lyon-based hot doggeria Teddy’s will focus on the hot dog, a popular French snack.

Reuben Pastrami

A look at the famous Reuben Pastrami grilled sandwich with William and Simon Benitah, founders of Will’s Deli.

The role of hot beverages

Cafés Richard – a specialist in coffee, tea and hot chocolate for bars and restaurants, along with the equipment specially designed for bakeries – will examine how hot beverage fit into the snacking offer.

Going plant-based

Over 1.2 billion of La Vie’s iconic jambon beurre (ham and butter) sandwiches are reportedly sold every year, and now has a much wider appeal.

Despite being free of textural additives, La Vie’s innovative plant-based ham has the appearance of traditional charcuterie, along with the protein content and means vegans and those looking to reduce their meat consumption can now enjoy the nation’s favourite sandwich.

Customised for the consumer

The Sunny Pocket is much more than a simple machine. In less than 50 seconds, it will transform a simple sweet or savoury sandwich into a truly succulent delicacy – made to measure in front of your consumer and limited only by the imagination.

Bakery World Cup

The prestigious international competition features the world's 12 top bakery teams and will include a gourmet bread-making category.

Sirha Europain returns for its 25th​ anniversary in January 2024 to celebrate bakery know-how, techniques and heritage from around the world. With over 300 exhibitors and brands, the comprehensive trade show offers an enlightened look at the industry as a whole, its heritage and its evolution. Sirha Europain is part of the Sirha Food ecosystem, supported by Sirha Lyon and the strength of its bakery, pastry and out-of-home catering networks.

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