I hear the above questions/sentiment a couple times a year, usually around the time of a tradeshow, so I thought I’d address it since All Things Baking is right around the corner. My answer is always no, the industry isn’t dying, but it is changing. To help prove my point that death isn’t imminent, yesterday alone I read about four new bakeries that were opening their doors across the country. OK, two were in Texas, but Texas is a big state.
That was just one day’s reading; I can’t tell you how many new bakeries I’ve read about in the past year. I do know our file for Groundbreakers, the department in the print edition of Modern Baking that features bakeries open less than a year, is quite large. I know some of you will argue that just as many bakeries are closing. Some of the “institutions” of the baking industry have closed (although I’d argue more than enough are opening to outnumber those that have shuttered), the reasons behind the closings could be many.
I do know that these new bakeries are not like the bakery that your parents operated 25 years ago. The traditional full-line bakery offering everything from white bread to decorated cakes is becoming increasingly harder to find. But the world has changed a lot in 25 years and the baking industry has to change with it. Who still uses a rotary dial phone (or even still has a land-line)? When was the last time you sent a letter through the post office instead of just shooting someone an email or text message? Everything changes, and we have to change with it.
That’s not to say that there is no place for full-line bakeries anymore, because there most definitely is, and Modern Baking features them in our annual Retail Bakery of the Year (see the upcoming August issue for the latest winner). However, even these bakeries have changed, with many now offering gourmet coffee and tea programs and foodservice or deli items for savory breakfasts and lunches.
Many of the bakeries opening today are a bit more specialized in their product offerings, focusing on cupcakes and other sweetgoods, custom-decorated cakes or breads and pastries made with artisan techniques. Does this make them any less of a bakery? I would argue no. They are finding the niche that needs to be filled in their community. They too will have to continue to change with their community to be/remain successful.
Bakery isn’t dying at all, it’s evolving.