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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » April 28, 2011
Polska…tastes good!
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Bread: A Polish Export Hit
April 28, 2011   
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Poland is exporting more and more bread. Last year the value of baked-goods exports (including cakes and biscuits) reached 516 million euros. That’s over four times more than generated by alcoholic beverages; until now, Polish vodkas were considered the country’s best-known brand-name export goods.

Bread in Poland is a natural part of the daily diet. Surveys show that over 96 percent of households buy bread, more than any other foodstuff. Polish bread is unique, and comes in a variety of special flavors that are hard to find in baked goods from other countries. A moist and tasty crumb and good crust coupled with a pleasant aroma is what makes this bread so special. The creativity of Polish bakers results in a huge diversity of baked goods on the market, including sourdough bread, white bread, crescent rolls, baguettes, challah bread, bread loaves and rolls, light and dark, wheat, rye, mixed, wholegrain, made from rare grains such as spelt wheat and amaranth, common, select, sweetened, with added seeds, fruits or honey, or sprinkled with them. There are also regional products like bagels and korovai celebration bread, there’s bread for special occasions like harvest festivals and weddings.

Thanks to the baking industry’s centuries-long tradition, recipes have been continually improved and passed on from generation to generation. This means the best bakeries use recipes that can be up to 300 years old, the tastiest of which are based on sourdough starters. Poland is also one of few countries that still use rye flour to make bread. Rye flour has much greater nutritional value than wheat flour, and the difference is also noticeable in the flavor. Blending tradition with well-tested technology allows Polish bakers to boast a range of several hundred different kinds of bread—something for everyone, even the most discerning of gourmets. Understandably then, Polish bread is appreciated at home and abroad.

Just a few years ago, though, practically nobody would even think of exporting bread or rolls. Now Polish bread sold to other countries is becoming a hit. When the borders were opened, Polish bakers seeking new markets at first tentatively started taking their goods to borderland areas in Germany and the Czech Republic, and when that went well, they began opening stores and moving into regions deeper inside those countries.

Today Polish bakers export the most bread to places with large Polish immigrant communities, including Britain, Ireland, Germany and even Spain. Polish bread might well stay there for good, because it is becoming increasingly popular among the locals, too.

Genuine Polish bread is beginning to carve out a niche on global markets as well. Polish bread sold to foreign markets has to be special, with an original, unique flavor and aroma. Industrially mass-produced bread is in plentiful supply on foreign markets, so Polish bread can only win by being different and tastier, even if it has to be more expensive.

Exports are dominated by frozen bread because this can be stored for a long time. Apart from sourdough bread, foreign customers also buy white bread, baguettes and bread rolls. These products are sent to countries like Germany, Britain, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries. Exports of bread and other baked goods would grow even faster if the sector were not so dispersed. Poland has more than 10,000 bakeries, most of them small businesses, making this one of the most fragmented baked goods markets in Europe (according to the Office for Competition and Consumer Protection, none of the leaders controls even 2 percent of the market). Grzegorz Nowakowski, director of the Polish Bread Institute (IPP), says consolidation would make it easier to win foreign contracts.

Bread export growth is desirable because consumers in Poland are buying less bread, a trend that has been visible for years. The IPP estimates that the average Pole currently eats 60 kg of bread and rolls per year, 20 kg less than 10 or 20 years ago.

The choice of baked goods in Poland is huge. Some prefer bread and rolls made by small, local artisan bakeries, others buy bread from large commercial bakeries that use traditional recipes. Some bread in Polish stores carries the Poznaj Dobrą Żywność (Try Fine Food) label, a guarantee of consistently high quality, using ingredients from known sources and processing technologies guaranteeing safety as well as excellent flavor. The label is granted to products with a solid market position, familiar to consumers, made and sold on the market for at least a year, whose producers implement identification procedures along the entire production chain, including a procedure for withdrawing a product from the market should it fail to meet the requirements. Since the Poznaj Dobrą Żywność program was established, the label has been granted to more than 1,000 Polish food products from over 100 producers. At present it can be used by 474 products made by 75 companies. In the bread category, it is used by different kinds of baked goods from Asprod Sp. z o.o. in Kiniska Wielkie and Piekarnia Złoty Kłos in Dobczyce, zwiebacks from Mamut Sp. z o.o. in Wrocław, and spelt bread from Piekarnia W.W.K. Vini in Rogoźnik.
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