L'idéal ce n'est pas Lidl!

Globalisation of the baguette

Lidl are the biggest "discount alimentaire" store in France and are very proliferate in the Pyrenees Orientales with 19 stores. When you consider that the population of the PO is only 450,000 people, the German discount store has a firm grip on the short and curlies of the "hard discount" market here.
I'm a fan of Lidl, for a once a month shop, to stock up, and for pasta, toilet roll, tins of tomatoes, nuts, dried fruits and toiletries, you can't beat it for price. They also do the tastiest ice cream, some really nice Italian cold meats, a selection of good cheeses and their cleaning products are ace.
I do have a problem with their 29cent baguettes though - no independent bakery can compete with this cut throat price for crying out loud, with the average price being about 80cents for a baguette in the local corner shop.
Not all the Lidls sell 'Votre pain frais quotidien cuit sur place', but those that do are situated near towns like the ones near Canet village and Port Vendres for example. So bread buyers saunter into a German store to purchase their traditional french bread .. with baguettes under one arm, they probably pick up a few other essentials under the other arm and off they trot, saving themselves an average of 50cents per baguette. Quickly doing the sums ( I am an accountant , after all!!), an average french household consumes 2 baguettes per day, so a saving of 7euros per week, 350euros per year, not to be snuffed at...
Meanwhile, your local baker gets squeezed out of the market and the little ole lady who used to home bake her lovely chocolate cakes and friandises alongside her trusty baguette becomes a distant memory. Two bakeries have closed down in Port Vendres since Lidl began their loss leader tactics.
The little guy has come out in some towns to protest against the German giants but it's a free market, with no price fixing and unfortunately with the economics in the PO; a low average wage and an aging population, this means that the bread loving public are flocking to their local Lidl.
It's a sad day for France when the local small artisan is forced out of the market by the greedy globalisation of "les grandes surfaces"
C'mon guys, leave the poor little boulangerie alone! In this case, L'idéal ce n'est pas Lidl!!


This is exactly what happened in the UK around 20 years ago. Supermarkets began to sell cheap bread in their in-store bakeries, and slowly the village bakeries started to disappear. The same happened to butchers as the supermarkets started to sell cheap meat, my village in the UK once had a baker and a butcher, but now we just have two supermarkets 5 miles away.

In recent times as wealth and living standards are increasing, the UK is seeing a revival in local butchers and bakeries; three have opened up in the past 18 months in my area. Their produce is generally of better quality than the local supermarket, and locally sourced. However to understand why families still continue to shop at the supermarket, one should watch the 'Chicken Out' programmes by High Fearnley Whittingstall, where the mother buys Tesco chickens at £2 each, cuts the breast meat off and throws the rest away. By eating that way, and knowing no better, people think they cannot afford the local butcher and use the supermarket.

Hopefully the French people will prove to be more discerning than us in the UK when it comes to the quality and provenance of their meat and bread, and they will see the mistakes made elsewhere and support their local businesses before it is too late. Only time will tell.

I have visited the Lidl in Port Vendres and seen the bread. You are right it's cheap and sadly market forces in a recession mean that people do buy cheaper. However, I think this will be short lived and, although Lidl is my new favourite shop (where else can you buy great smoked ham and a wet-suit?) I think that the bread is poor. Where I live we have a Lidl, Netto, Carrefour, InterMarché and still 6 boulangerie traditionelle. They survive by providing exceptional quality produce and a personal service, something that Lidl cannot compete with. Especially when you consider that they do not pay their staff enough to care! I hope that people recognise the difference and are willing to pay that little bit extra, support the little people that are only trying to make a living and appriciate the effort, sweat and heart that goes into something as simple as your daily bread. My favourite baker has adapted her offering to suit the local market, innovated her products and priced within what is acceptable. Boulangeries also need to do their bit to stay ahead of the inevitable competition. I will continue to buy from my favourite baker, I hope she continues to delight me.