At the centre of the dispute are changing shopping habits: more and more consumers getting their ‘freshly baked’ morning Brötchen not from their local bakery but from the supermarket, from discount shops, or even petrol stations.
Growing numbers of shops are now baking ready-made dough on site to tempt shoppers with the smell of warm bread. But, say the bitter bakers, this heating up process is not ‘baking’ and it would be false advertising to say it was.
“Where bread rolls are just warmed up and not baked, it should be named as such,” demanded the Conusmer Association in Hamburg recently – without naming any specific offending supermarket chains.
There are now 15,000 such Backstations – small ovens where ready-made dough can be cooked on site, said the German Association of Wholesale Bakeries – whose members deliver the pre-made dough to shops.
In the next three years a further 10,000 expected to pop up all over the country, said the association, with Edeka and daughter discount chain Netto announcing in May they will put Backstations in one quarter of their stores.
In the face of this growing trend and changing eating habits, where the traditional German main meal at lunchtime is being pushed back to the evening, bakeries are having to diversify and offer more filled rolls and lunchtime snacks for workers.
“Abendbrot is being replaced by dinner. There’s a trend of eating a warm meal in the evening,” said Amin Werner, manager director of the Central Association of German Federation of Bakeries.
“More and more regional specialties are being offered,” said Werner, who expects the association’s current bread register of 3,000 kinds could rise to several tens of thousands of different sorts of bread and rolls if all regional bakeries added theirs.
The main selling point for bakers, said Werner, is that they can boast that the entire bread-making process is done on site.
“One difference is that bakers take on the whole baking process, from preparing the dough to the proving process, to baking it in the oven,” said Werner.
Werner’s association has gone as far as to take discount supermarket Aldi to court to challenge its advertising “baked bread and rolls fresh from the oven” as misleading.
In a still ongoing legal battle, Aldi has contended that the in-store Backstation ovens did indeed ‘bake’ the bread.