For Bulgarians, bread is the stuff of life. You'll see bread revered at weddings and festivals such as Easter and Christmas. There was even a national conference about the business of making bread, its quality and price, attended by bakers, retailers and government representatives.
White, wheat and brown were the only kinds of bread available to the Bulgarians as little as three years ago. Bread has come a long way since, with a huge variety of bread now available on the retailers shelves. Up to 40 brands are now on display.
Despite this wealth of choice, Bulgarians still prefer white bread to any other. Sales of wholemeal and others are increasing but slowly.
Most people buy their bread locally on a daily basis, buying from small delicatessen or little "stocki", which get their bread from local bakers. There are more than 1.8 million loaves of bread produced on a daily basis and three quarters of these are produced by small bakeries. The price of bread in Bulgaria is the lowest in the EU.
There are naturally difficulties for these small bakers but they manage to cope with them. As long as there is grain, there will be flour so bread can be made. Bulgarian bakeries are benefitting from the import of EU technology and business practices. Even though they operate only small businesses they manage to visit exhibitions and purchase up to date equipment. A study undertaken in northwestern Bulgaria about bread consumption and consumer preferences showed that this region has a particularly well-established retail market, where small bakers are competitive against the large manufacturers. The small bakers are geared up to make specialty breads and have enormous skill and experience. The large manufacturers have found it hard to invest in new technical equipment as the cost is not effective when the market is so small.
This is excellent news for the consumer as small bakers continue to thrive and produce fresh daily bread and specialty loaves for celebrations. If you want to keep fresh daily baked bread on the shelves, support your local bakery!