Ever wonder why big stores tend to only sell fresh breads under the same name? You know, the breads in the perforated plastic baggies with a deli scale labels situated in rustic-looking basket? The primary reason is much deeper than the image, or the aroma of fresh baked bread.
The facts are these, unless frozen, fresh-baked artisan bread is extremely perishable. It’s not perishable in the sense that it will be dangerously spoiled or physically inedible, like fresh cheese or raw milk. Once baked, preservative-free artisan bread needs to be used or frozen that day. If not, the crust gets hard and the once soft interior dries out. Selling fresh artisan bread would be possible if each store received a modest delivery of breads directly from the bakery every day. We deliver 365 days a year to our restaurant and independent retail clients to avoid sacrificing our precious quality.
Large chain grocery stores almost always have a sister distribution center. This allows them to buy in huge volume from the wholesale suppliers and store that huge volume before distributing smaller quantities down to their individual retail outlets with company owned trucks.
Grocery stores, and many restaurants, believe they have gotten around the quality issue by employing a little technique called “par-bake” (partially baked). Basically, a bakery makes the bread and partially bakes it. They then package and freeze it. The partially baked frozen bread is then distributed all the way down through the distribution centers to the individual grocery stores. (All the while using massive amounts of energy to keep it frozen). Once the grocer receives the frozen bread-bricks, they store them for even longer. To achieve that fresh baked aroma and warm-fuzzy feeling within their patrons, the grocer’s “baker” throws the frozen bread in their big fancy-looking ovens. When it comes out, it’s somewhat crusty and hot (an imposter, if you ask me).
It’s not just the breads that come in frozen, it’s cakes, cookie and muffin dough, and all sorts of bakery items. Many stores maintain a finishing bakery where they bake off and decorate these once frozen goods. The crazy thing is the prices of these frozen goods are comparable to our 100% truly fresh items.
The good news is that when enough people want something, the grocers will provide. All you, fellow foodies, have to do is ask.