Bread – oldest human-made food – symbol of past & present

Oven, bread cutter, cooling process, packing & making cookies

Beyond the Horizon

By Pradeep Kumar

Bread isn’t just a food. It goes so much deeper than that touching our psyche, bringing us together and sometimes breaking us apart, but always connecting us with the past and the future.

On visiting a relative Debananda Mohanty, plant head of Linsij Packaging, a bakery unit of industrial estate, Balasore, I saw how the entire making process was interwoven with forward and backward market linkages.

After witnessing four-, three- and two-wheelers taking large quantities of breads, rusk and cookies of La Fresh brand, I asked about details when owner Sovendra Dash said: “Though we were operating Usha Food Craft unit in a rented house since 2004, but took over 9,000 sqmtr RCC complex of Linsij Packaging on a 99-year lease from Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) in 2017. Our products have been meeting rising catering to needs of Balasore, Bhadrak and Mayurbhanj districts”.

Mohanty explained me each process (in pics), interrupted by direction to workers to speed up while maintaining quality.

Bread has a rich history dating back to at least 30,000 years. Historically, first made from roasted cereal grains and water, made into a “grain-paste” and then cooked. This flatbread still has a legacy in many parts of the world today, where similar items are made.

‘Bread loses world’s fattest man, his fiancée’ news flashed in my mind: World’s fattiest man Paul Mason had allegedly lost his American girlfriend Rebecca Mountain for a loaf of bread, as reported by The Mirror.

The American woman saw Paul on a TV show recounting his dramatic weight loss and fell in love with him. He had lost a whopping 43 stone and the couple soon got engaged. But on coming home she found a loaf of bread lurking in kitchen and felt it was a ‘clear breach’ of diet the duo was supposed to take. Paul had lost more than two thirds of his body weight thanks to a gastric band operation. His food issues became clear by 2015; the pounds piled back on and the couple split up.

Bread is a staple food of Middle East, central Asia, North Africa, Europe and European-derived cultures. Bread is usually made from wheat-flour dough that is cultured with yeast and finally baked in an oven. The air pockets commonly found in bread is due to addition of yeast.

One of the oldest human-made foods, evidence of 30,000 years ago in Europe and Australia revealed starch residue on rocks used for pounding plants.  The oldest evidence of bread-making has been found in a 14,500-year-old Natufian site in Jordan’s northeastern desert. With dawn of Neolithic age and spread of agriculture around 10,000 BC, grains became mainstay of making bread. Yeast spores are ubiquitous, including on the surface of cereal grains, so any dough left to rest leavens naturally.

Early leavened bread was baked in 6000 BC in southern Mesopotamia, cradle of Sumerian civilization, who may have passed on the knowledge to Egyptians around 3000 BC. The Egyptians refined the process and started adding yeast to the flour. The Sumerians were using ash to supplement the dough as it was baked.

Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans considered refinement level in bakery arts as a sign of civilization. But, the Chorleywood bread processing was developed in 1961.

Owing to its high levels of gluten, which give the dough sponginess and elasticity, wheat is the most common grain used for making bread, which makes the largest single contribution to the world’s food supply of any food.

The global bread market, including loaves, baguettes, rolls, burger buns, sandwich slices, ciabatta & frozen bread, in North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, South America, Middle-East and Africa, is expected to reach a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.12% during 2022-2027. It is projected to grow from USD 416.36 billion in 2021 to USD 590.54 billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 5.12%. Europe holds the largest share in global bread market by volume.

Amid COVID-19 challenges of labor shortages and supply chain issues, the bakery industry has been at the forefront of a whirlwind of change. The 2020 and 2021 passed with the pandemic and changed our lives. We have entered a period in which healthy food and beverages are in the first place for many consumers. Bakers also made many innovations to survive this period. I believe there will be growth opportunities, especially for industrial ovens.

India’s bread industry is 4 million tones industry growing at the rate of 6%. However the organized sector is growing at the rate of 8%. The bread industry data includes organized (45%) and unorganized sectors (55%). The organized sector consists of around 1800 small scale bread manufactures, besides 25 medium scale manufacturers and 2 large scale industries which were permitted to continue on the basis of their installed capacity in 1976 when the GoI reserved bread industry for small sector.

The unorganized sector of bread units/neighbourhood bakeries etc. consist of an estimated 75,000 bread bakers mostly located in residential areas of cities and towns. 35 percent of the total production comes from the small scale sector with about 1500-1800 units in operation. As bread industry is a low margin business, cost control is crucial in sustaining profitability in the long run.

Interestingly, Beer & Bread Festival-2022 was celebrated on 05.01.22 in UK’s famous Windmill Gardens with great enthusiasm with beer flowing in the park. Thanks to Brixton Brewery for partnering with fiends of Windmill Gardens to make the event so successful with the help of Bullfinch Brewery, Canopy Beer and London Beer Bar.

Beer & Bread Festival was celebrated in Fountains Abbey. It’s a heavenly combination – no wonder there are so many new festivals popping up to celebrate bread and beer. Long ago flattened by Henry 8th dissolution of monasteries, Fountains Abbe is now a stunningly lovely ruin and World Heritage Site, one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in North Yorkshire, England. The event, celebrated during 15 & 16 and 22 & 23 June, partnering with Leeds Indie Food, saw many local street food producers, brewers and bakers, who sold their wares and talked about how they make their artisan produce. Over 120,000 had attended the event in 2018. The business has been on the go since 1804 and Eileen Eileen Hibbert, 82, rates it highly.

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