Bakeries have been closing down in the past 10 years at the rate of two per month in Wallonia and closer to five per month in Flanders, Le Soir reported on Tuesday.
The closures have been blamed on the establishment of a new economic model in which prices often take precedence over quality.
The number of bakeries went from 1,557 in 2008 to 1,307 in 2017 in Wallonia, according to data from the Federal Public Service for Economic Affairs. In Flanders, the drop was even higher: from 3,224 to 2,684, in the same time-span. However, the numbers remained stable in Brussels: 352 bakeries in 2008, and 355 in 2017.
"The downward trend has been confirmed since 1996, the year that the Francophone Federation was created,” the president of the Francophone Federation of Bakeries, Albert Denoncin, commented in Le Soir. “And this drop is even more noticeable in Flanders. Where the Brussels-Capital Region is concerned, you would agree that it’s difficult to go any lower.”
An increasing number of supermarkets are selling low-cost bread at all hours of the day, ”so there is stronger competition with the traditional bakeries since the economic model of the big department stories combines exceptional volume with lower prices,” said Carole Dannevoye, project director at the Union des Classes Moyennes (UCM).
“Obviously I am not talking about quality since it’s often frozen dough from Eastern Europe,” she explained. “At the same time, raw material prices are sky high, so small bakeries are forced to specialise in organic bread, without gluten, to attract a different clientele looking for specific, more expensive, products.”
The Brussels Times