The French Boulangerie: an Endangered Species?

Posted by on Jul 16, 2017 in News, Rob's Blog

Nowhere in the world is the art of making and consuming various styles of bread more indigenous to local culture than in France.

The epicenter of this are the thousands of boulangeries or local bakeries that spread across the country. They make everything from traditional baguettes to the indispensable croissant. They have a history that dates back to the 17th century.

But the average boulangerie in France is in trouble. According to a recent article in the New York Times the number of boulangeries has dropped from 37,000 twenty years ago to fewer than 25,000 today. The reasons for this decline range from more people (yes even the French) paying attention to carbohydrates and from the emergence of more middle class American-style grocery stores that serve a wide variety of breads and pastries.

While this may seem unthinkable, there appears to be small light at the end of the tunnel in the form of career baker Pascal Rigo. While establishing himself in the US with a chain of high end boulangeries, he has now returned to France to breathe new light into the French tradition.

Pascal Rigo

Pascal Rigo

His first move was to reduce operating costs. Most of his new stores consist of one baker and an assistant with only 300 square feet of work space. Tough duty but these mini bakeries are all profitable. The idea to return to more artisanal foods sans preservatives is a shock to some modern French bakers. But Rigo’s operational ideas seem to resonate with French customers. I suspect this is good news from the birthplace of the croissant.

Perhaps this will inspire the same innovation in Austin!