MADRID – Recently, several Spanish newspapers reported that the gas station Repsol, with 14 million baguettes sold annually, is Spain’s leading bread seller. Radio broadcaster Cadena Ser delved deeper into the matter of bread sales in Spain.
Many, including Cadena Ser, found it hard to believe that a gas station chain, in a country rich with traditional bakeries and growing interest in homemade sourdough bread, could be among the major bread sellers. With 3,300 stations across the country, it turns out that each location sells an average of 11 loaves daily. This number is less impressive than initially thought.
Repsol’s strategy focuses on enhancing commercial and service activities by targeting electric vehicle drivers. As these drivers spend more time at stations to recharge their batteries, typically between 20 and 30 minutes, it presents an opportunity to shop, have coffee, pick up parcels, or buy bread. However, the company itself denies claiming leadership in Spain’s bread sales. With no article citing a source for this claim, it seems to have gained unexplained news status.
Spain’s real bakers
An analysis by Cadena Ser shows that the real leaders in bread sales are supermarkets, with Mercadona likely at the forefront. With a 25% market share in food distribution in Spain, Mercadona seems to be the largest bread seller, though exact sales figures are unavailable.
Shift in bread consumption
Bread consumption in Spain has decreased from 50 to 30 kilograms per person per year over the past 20 years. This includes fresh bread, crackers, and ‘picos’ (breadsticks often served with tapas), according to the Informe Alimentación en España 2022 by Mercasa. This decline is more pronounced in fresh bread, which represents 79% of the market, compared to industrial bread.
Smaller households, particularly young adults and singles, consume less bread, while retirees are the largest bread consumers. The decrease in consumption is attributed to misconceptions about bread causing weight gain and the trend towards quicker meals.
The president of the Spanish Confederation of Bakery, Pastry, and Related Products (Ceoppan) suggests that this decline is not exclusive to Spain but is also evident in countries like France and Germany.
Traditional bread sector in Spain
Spain’s traditional bread sector comprises about 12,000 bakeries with 45,000 points of sale and 190,000 employees. Experts stress the need for innovation and adapting bread to current tastes and needs, emphasising quality and nutritional value. Focus should be on using various grains and providing nutritional information to consumers.
Industrial bread and pre-baked doughs are gaining popularity, with Grupo Bimbo leading this market. The most common bread types are ‘barra’ (baguette-like bread) and ‘baguette’. 54% of people in Spain buy their bread in supermarkets, and 32% elsewhere.
Quality over quantity in bread sales
Experts like Iban Yarza, author of several books on artisan bread, stress that the quality of bread, regardless of where it’s sold, is most important. The production method and ingredients are crucial. There is a growing interest in high-quality, artisan bread, marking a positive trend in bread culture.
Caution with additives and large amounts of yeast
Yarza points out that in many large-scale bread production places, the focus is primarily on performance and economic benefit, not necessarily quality. Some bakers use many additives and large amounts of yeast to produce bread quickly and in large quantities. While acknowledging that “the world of additives, mixes, and fake sourdoughs has done its job well and is improving,” Yarza advises against buying bread from supermarkets.