Bread blast: How the new generation of French bakers is changing the bakery and patisserie arena

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Bread Bakery patisserie France Pastry World Cup eco-responsibility Sourcing Europain

A greater focus on the health of the planet is placing emphasis on the baker’s responsibility in where, what and the way in which they source ingredients, along with the processes they adopt and, most importantly, their creation’s health halo. While bread remains a staple around the world, bakeries need to adapt to the changing eating habits of consumers who are looking for fast, healthy, gourmet, nomadic and affordable options.

Talk to Luc Dubanchet about bakery and patisserie, and he exudes enthusiasm about the sector’s future.

“The French bakery market is growing. Daily, 12 million consumers visit bakeries and pastry shops … so it’s huge,” the director of Sirha Food for GL Events – the organizers of Sirha Europain – told Bakery&Snacks.

“Of course, shops are closing – almost 33,000 shops in France, bakeries mainly – but I think it’s a new world for bakeries and also for pastry. You can see in the exhibition aisles that we’re getting very young people [coming through], and that’s a new generation of bakers coming with new ideas, a new vision on bakery and pastry. And that’s very interesting.

“So, I’m quite optimistic about the future of the French pastry and bakery sector because, again, new ideas, new vision, a new kind of responsibility will create something that is quite new.”

For four jam-packed days, Sirha Europain dug deep into the world of bread and patisserie, answering these challenges while showcasing products, ingredients, equipment and packaging for this unique sector.

Boasting a resolutely modern program, the trade show also hosted masterclasses, workshops and round tables on different stages, along with the European heats for the World Pastry Cup, the highly regarded competition that takes place every two years in Lyon.

Eco-responsibility amid a bread blast

Artisanal bread nerudol
Pic: GettyImages/nerudol

More than 40 years old, Dubanchet claims Sirha Europain as one the oldest trade shows concerning pastry and bakery in the world. It’s an important part of the growth of bakery in our daily life,” he told Bakery&Snacks.

The 25th​ edition – aptly described by Dubanchet as a “bread blast” – was, once again, a highly successful event, clocking up growth in both exhibitor numbers, attendance and international participation. Covering 20,000m2 ​of floor space at the Porte de Versailles in Paris, the 534 exhibitors meant a 15% growth; while the number of attendees tipped over 32,000, marking a 27% increase from the 2022 edition. Of that, 17% were buyers from abroad, drawn by the new focus on bakery catering.

“It’s really the yearly rendezvous for all the bakers and pastry professionals in the world, coming here to see what’s going on in this business,” said Dubanchet.

“And it’s going up – after COVID of course, you know, we just collapsed – but we are redoing things and trying to bring in strategies to expand the show.”

Europain showcased the dynamic nature of the sector, which beyond the pandemic, is being battered by a raft of challenges like inflation, the cost of raw material and energy, and labor shortages, along with increasing consumer demand for product diversification and a bigger eco-responsibility.

“It’s quite a fight for all the bakers not only in France, but also in Europe. But I think they are fighters and they find solutions.”

World Pastry Cup

Le-Chef-CDM-patisserie-©Alexandre-Alloul-949x633

A major attraction was the European heats of the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie (World Pastry Cup),​ which saw France grab top spot, followed by Italy and the UK.

“It’s been two crazy days with seven countries competing. It’s nice to see Britain in the third position, just after Italy and France. They will compete at the finals next January in Lyon,” said Dubanchet

Representing France, Haruka Atsuji (chocolate) and Jérémy Massing (sugar) stood out for their exceptional creations around an enchanted world theme, including a frozen dessert combining fruit flavors (apricot and raspberry) with yogurt ice cream and vanilla parfait, a Paris-Brest with clementine and hazelnut, and a restaurant dessert called ‘L’Éphémère’, chocolate soufflé accompanied by a pear charlotte.

“You saw their work. It’s crazy the way they are working with sugar. It’s so fragile and can be a mess in two seconds,” said Dubanchet.

“I think they did a great job concerning taste as well. Of course, they’re working with less sugar, healthier pastries, healthier cakes. It’s a part of the vision on what pastry has to be today … care about health and also responsibility concerning ingredients and [processes].”

France, Italy and the UK have qualified to participate in the Grand Final – taking place during the next Sirha Lyon in January 2025 – along with the judges’ ‘wild cards’: Sweden, Switzerland and Belgium.

The Pastry World Cup Americas heats are taking place in New Orleans – the first time the competition is being hosted in the US – and will see eight countries from North and South America baking, creating and sculpting against each other on June 11.

A fresh outlook

Eating a sandwich on the go Getty EMS-Forster-Productions
Pic: GettyImages/EMS-Forster-Productions

A new feature this year was Europain’s focus on snacking – or bakery catering.

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.

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.

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.

“I think we are coming back to a kind of traditional bakery or traditional pastry,” said Dubanchet.

“They are the roots and also the path to what is important in life.”

Again, he emphasized how the scene is changing under the command of the new generation.

“Local ingredients, taking care about the future of the planet [has placed an emphasis on] being careful about the way a baker sources flour, the way you source chocolate, the way you are sourcing all the components. This is the main focus on pastry,” said Dubanchet.

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