Digitization of the bakery in the 21st century: is digital the new tradition?

Digitization in the bakery

Bakery 4.0 – This is the name for the bakery of the future. The bakery trade has a long tradition in Germany. With bread as one of the oldest human-made foods, the bakery is without a doubt one of the most traditional and enduring craft trades in the world. But especially in recent years, bakeries and pastry shops have been facing new challenges that need to be mastered. Digital solutions seem to be the answer to various problems. At best, the aim is to combine tradition and digitization. But what exactly does a bakery model of the future look like?


In 2014, the „German bread culture“ was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.


Digitization in Germany – The Bakery 4.0

We listen to music on our smartphones, bank transactions are carried out on the web and shopping is done conveniently from the sofa – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These are just some of the examples of digital services that have been with us every day for a long time. The traditional bakery trade inevitably comes into contact with digitization.

The term digitization has no clear definition, but describes in the original sense the conversion of analog information into digital formats. Nowadays, the term is primarily understood to mean the digital change that digitization has triggered through change processes in society.

The bakery industry’s interest in digital solutions has been growing for years, according to Martin Reinhardt, State Minister of the Guild of the Württemberg bakery trade . With digital aids, almost every work step in the bakery can be digitized and networked. The traditional craft should not be given up, but rather be made more pleasant, sustainable and, above all, competitive through the numerous digital helpers. But despite the positive trend, according to the Federal Ministry of Economics , there is still “room for improvement” to deal with digitization. Increasing competition, a lack of skilled workers and new regulations are just some of the reasons that are calling on the bakery trade to rethink. In order to equip bakery and confectionery businesses for the future, these digital solutions will be indispensable in the long term.


Discussion topic digitization: That’s what the baking industry says

Digitization is also a hotly debated topic at trade fairs and meetings. At the iba , the leading global trade fair for bakery, confectionery and snacks, the bakery industry exchanged ideas on the subject of „digital helpers“ as early as 2018.

Representatives of Südback , the trade fair for the bakery and confectionery trade in Germany, also see the positive trend towards digitization in the bakery industry. At this trade fair, the director of the Federal Academy of the German Bakery Trade in Weinheim , Bernd Kütscher, presented digital solutions for bakeries. Kütscher was also represented at the general assembly of the state guild associations of bakers in Baden, Hesse, Southwest and Württemberg as well as the unifying ADB Südwest and in his lecture gave the urgent recommendation for all companies to deal with digital solutions. Since the competition is constantly evolving and customers are increasingly expecting more, according to Kütscher, digital options such as delivery services, ordering systems and Instagram are essential components for the sustainability of companies in the age of technical progress.


Bakery trade: development, but in which direction?

Despite the stable demand, the bakery industry is experiencing an ongoing process of concentration: throughout Germany, the number of bakeries fell from around 55,000 to 10,500. At the same time, the number of start-ups in the bakery trade is increasing. This development is due to the increasing number of large companies. It can be observed more and more that many small individual businesses are becoming a few businesses with several branches. The „dying of bakeries“ thus affects mainly small regional suppliers who are forcefully displaced from the market by large corporations as well as supermarkets and discounters.

Large retail chains with their own baking stations and self-service bakeries offer baked goods at low prices. Smaller bakeries and pastry shops often cannot keep up with this and have to accept enormous losses in sales. Another reason for the decline in craft bakeries is the shortage of skilled workers. Younger people’s interest in learning a trade has been declining for years.

In addition to these ongoing problems, the bakery industry is constantly faced with new hurdles. A current example is the corona pandemic. Michael Wippler, President of the Central Association of the German Bakers ‚ Trade, explained about the corona situation that „especially the businesses with closed café areas and branches in usually high-traffic locations such as train stations and airports suffered considerable losses“.

The digitization of the traditional bakery trade should now be the answer to these challenges. But what exactly does that look like? Master baker Gerhild Fischer recently spoke to MDR-Sachsen-Anhalt about this. She, too, was forced by the corona pandemic to break new ground and had an app developed for ordering bread and rolls. In this way, she was able to optimize her sales and win new customers, which helped her survive the Corona crisis.


The digitization of the bakery – this is what it can look like

In addition to a digital ordering solution, such as that from Gerhild Fischer, there are numerous other digital options that are increasingly finding their way into bakeries and pastry shops.


The digitization of the bakery starts with the production and range planning. Demand analyzes and forecasts are intended to support the bakery trade using artificial intelligence. These help to ensure optimal availability of goods, compliance with target returns and increased sales generation. The digital helpers include weather, public holidays and vacation times, product groups and other influential factors in the demand for goods in the forecast.


A digitized process that can already be found in many bakeries and pastry shops is wired remote maintenance. It enables bakers to carry out precise analyzes of operating and consumption data, such as energy efficiency or troubleshooting.


In addition to an applesolution, bread and rolls can also be offered in a web shop on the company’s own website. This gives customers the opportunity to look at the ingredients and are given direct advice on which baked goods they should not order due to allergies, for example. Cashless payment has become the standard for many people. Instead of a heavy wallet with coins and bills, a thin card or smartphone is sufficient these days. The option of cashless payments has become an important topic, not least because of the corona pandemic, and is available in a wide variety of ways, above all via a web shop.


An often underestimated aspect in the bakery industry is the internet presence. Your own website and activity in social networks are necessary to strengthen the company’s image as an attractive employer and to be found by job seekers and customers. Existing and new customers can thereby be bound and efficiently informed about current concerns, offers and news. The digital business card, especially in social media, gives authentic insights into the company and is increasingly becoming the first point of contact for searches for companies and locations – well before the website is accessed.


5 advantages of digitization for bakeries, pastry shops as well as customers and …

The above-mentioned options for digitizing a business do not only bring numerous advantages for bakers and customers.

  1. Every year around 1.7 million tons of bread and baked goods are thrown away. By controlling the quantity of goods in line with demand, the return rate can be sustainably reduced . With reliable data, overproduction decreases, which leads to less wasted food.
  2. In many companies, lists and documentation are still kept in analog form. With the help of the digitization of these work steps, the high effort can be reduced significantly .
  3. Cashless payment, pre-ordering goods and checking the ingredients on the website ensure a positive external perception of the company and offer the customer an optimal shopping experience .
  4. In addition to the costs , digitization saves two-time work in almost all work areas, which in the end leaves more time for the actual craft.
  5. These digital measures are often the standard for large retail chains. By using digital helpers in the bakery trade, the baking industry can also position itself competitively for the future .

A traditional bakery in the Franconian town of Münchenberg shows how these digital measures can look in practice in the following video.


The bakery as an industry between tradition and future

Due to technical progress, which has gained momentum not least due to the pandemic, a change has taken place in the bakery industry in recent years. With elements such as digital cash register systems, digitization has also reached the bakery and is now spreading further. The focus is clearly on relieving bakers, sustainable production and the competitiveness of traditional businesses. The digital helpers should enable master bakers to focus more on their manual activities, so that digitization works as a motor for the future of tradition.


“The German bread culture has an excellent reputation far beyond its borders. The bakery trade stands for tradition and quality. I love traditions because they teach us a lot from the past for the future . That’s why it’s important not to lose them. “

Almila Bagriacik (actress, crime scene commissioner and ambassador for German bread 2021)


Every company has different approaches to the opportunities and risks resulting from technical progress. In order to keep up with the times and be able to survive on the market in the long term, it is essential to deal with the topic of digitization at an early stage. Nevertheless, this digital transformation does not take place overnight, it is a journey that is connected with continuous development from the individual digitization status and that does not have to be done alone.