Visit Le Liberté on Rue de Turbigo, a Parisian bakery like no other, and the 2023 winner of the Paris Shop & Design prize for its interior design. With its corrugated concrete counter, dreamlike mosaic and original floors and ceiling, the store is “Instagrammable” to perfection and feels like an art gallery. Behind a glass partition, bakers are busy at work, and bread, pastries, salads, sandwiches and other snacks await customers at the counter. “I’ve put my own touch on it and I’ve always tried to blend what’s good with what’s beautiful,” said Mickaël Benichou, who studied the art market at Milan’s Bocconi University before taking the plunge. When it comes to “good,” the entrepreneur has spared no expense, using quality flour and leavens, specialty and sliced breads. The pastries are made in a workshop and delivered to bakeries by cargo bike.
Like him, many young bakers have burst onto the scene of the capital’s artisan bread market. They showcase their skills through one or more stores, including Maison Landemaine, Mamiche, Utopie, The French Bastards, Pane Vivo, Arlette & Colette, Béchu and Gana. Some, like Benichou, dream of becoming one of Paris’s leading retailers. For the past year, he has been working with his new shareholder, Stéphane Courbit, to increase the number of establishments from 10 to 20 and overtake Landemaine, the number two restaurant operator with around 20 locations in Paris. The founder of audiovisual giant Banijay has a growing appetite for this sector, with stakes in pastry retailer Ladurée and the bakery chain Ange.
A growing sector
Profitable, undergoing a transformation and experiencing growth, bread attracts not only artisan bakers but also investment funds and agricultural heavyweights. “The artisan bakery is the food trade that has reinvented itself the most over the last 20 years, benefiting from the unwavering love of good bread among the French,” explained Bernard Boutboul, founder of Gira, a specialist in the food consumption market. Above all, regardless of their positioning and the size of their business, bakers have increased their market space by occupying the fast-food and retail arenas with sweet and savory products consumed at all hours, as well as hot and cold takeaway dishes. “Snacking has become an essential part of their model, with bread serving as a flagship product,” said economist Bruno Parmentier, founder of the “Nourrir-Manger” (“Feed and Eat”) YouTube channel.
For the past two decades, the bakery industry has been getting back on its feet. The number of traditional bakeries, which had decreased from 45,000 in the 1970s to nearly 33,000 today, has been on the rise again for the past three years, buoyed by the growth of bakery chains and multi-store artisans. This return to better fortunes owes much to the work of the National Confederation of French Bakeries, as artisan bakers feel threatened by industrial groups.
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