Designer bakeries rise to the occasion

There’s something about bakeries. Most of us have heard about must-do, often regional, bakeries we should visit while on holiday domestically or overseas. Typically these recommendations have been driven by the product, rather than the ambience. But this is changing.

Eating less, paying more

A 2017 Mordor Intelligence report on global baking pegs the total market size of bakery products at US$530 billion by 2021, with a 4.5 per cent CAGR. This is driven primarily by developing regions such as Africa and Asia Pacific, although according to a Grandview Research study, specialty stores are expected to remain dominant even in Western markets, accounting for 33 per cent of stores selling baked goods globally by 2025.

In many Western markets, baked goods volume growth is flat. IBISworld’s April report on bread and cake retail in Australia estimates industry annual growth between 2014 and 2019 at  minus 0.2 per cent, theoretically making it tough for the 96.8 per cent of bread and cake retailers that are small businesses employing fewer than 20 people.

There has been a downward shift in volume – people are eating less bread – but this has been offset by an increasing move to premium and artisan products – as has been the case with liquor. Because of the shift to premium goods, IBISWorld Australia forecasts that baked goods industry revenue will actually rise 1.7 per cent annually from 2016 to 2021, to reach $3.9 billion.

Artisan bakeries are growing at the expense of traditional bakeries and hot bread shops, with the number of independent bakeries in Australia expected to decline over the five years through 2018-19, as some traditional stores struggle to compete against the large franchises such as Brumby’s and Baker’s Delight, and the rollout of in-store supermarket bakeries with artisanal bread offerings.

Artisanal bakeries are increasingly differentiating themselves not just with product, but with design and experience.

Creativity and carbs

A broad range of consumer trends are driving the rise of the artisan bakery, stretching back 15 years or so to the beginnings of the cupcake bakery craze in the mid-noughties. Cupcakes were prized for their creativity, flavour combinations, visual appeal and personalisation. A similar rise of macarons ensued, driven by a rising interest in baking as a result of cooking reality TV shows such as MasterChef and Great British Bakeoff.

At the other end of the spectrum, rising health consciousness has driven spend on healthier baked goods. Consumers are moving away from sliced white bread into artisanal, wholemeal, seeded, organic and dietary-specific products. This has motivated bakeries to include fortified and functional ingredients such as legumes, oats and probiotics in products. Noglu, in Paris, is a bakery dedicated to gluten-free baked goods.

Bread categories perceived to contain fewer carbohydrates, such as flatbreads, are also doing well.

From a channel standpoint, the authentic, customised and niche nature of artisan bakeries taps into broader consumer trends towards personalised experiences in locations with a sense of place, ideally deemed shareable and Insta-worthy. Design is becoming increasingly important.  

Making the space interesting

Although the products may be rustic, designer bakery spaces may be the opposite. Many designs are minimalist, understated and clean to better show off the products. Bakery cafe Po’s Atelier in Hong Kong features minimalist interiors and bespoke blonde-wood counters modelled after some of Japan’s boutique bakeries. VyTA’s Boulangeries, located throughout Italy, feature light oak and black polymer surfaces and hexagonal beehive detail, giving it the air of a high-end fashion boutique or bar. Melbourne’s Lune Croissant has an industrial concrete bunker feel.

At the other end of the spectrum, some designer bakeries leverage the authenticity  their historic location lends. New York’s Arcade Bakery, located in a 1920s Tribeca office building, is nearly invisible as its bakery window is built into a wall. But the fold-down tables which fall out of the walls give it away. And in the UK, architect Lucy Tauber has transformed a derelict post office in north London into an artisanal bakery with its kitchen on show, using bespoke industrial elements such as steel and ribbed glass to convert the space into the Margot Bakery.

Many designer bakeries are squeezed into small spaces. Despite a tiny space of 26 square metres, Japan’s Panscape bakery in Kyoto has components of cement and aluminium and also features a half-tonne log.

The Bake cheese tart chain’s Kyoto storefront features a service counter made of Lego bricks. Tokyo-based Yusuke Seki designed the Kyoto outlet, telling Dezeen website that Lego connects with visitors. “This architectural fabric serves as the shared language of communication between those whose spoken language may differ,” he said.

A table with a view

And then there’s those featuring unique products or elements. Copenhagen breakfast, dessert and ice cream sweet specialist Winterspring, until 2018 a caterer, recently opened a Nordic-feel space featuring Swedish ceramics and embroidered linens. 

In Hangzhou, China, the N2 patisserie pairs pastel pink and white surfaces with glass bricks to make a 40sqm space appear much larger. The bakery is located in a busy shopping area, and the designers, YPYC Architects, installed a wall of glass bricks across the storefront to blur the view, muffle the sound and filter and diffuse  direct sunlight.

Lune Croissant’s Fitzroy, Melbourne, location features a futuristic, temperature-controlled cube in which patrons can view croissants being rolled. Melbourne’s Q Le Baker at the Prahran Market sports kitchen-viewing windows and Hollywood-style dressing-room mirror lights to impart the feeling of theatre.

As the supermarkets attempt to compete in artisanal baked goods, independent bakeries increasingly look to not only products but experiences and design the supermarkets cannot provide.

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