Digitization of the bakery: is digital the new tradition?

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.

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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 constant 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. Small 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 Saxony-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.