Latvians cannot live by rye bread alone. Or can they?

Consumption of traditional rye bread has declined over the past 10 years, whereas white bread and pastry consumption has gone up, as observed by bakers. In order to promote consumption of traditional Latvian rye bread, it is planned to introduce a special rye bread program in schools, Latvian Radio reported on May 8.

Although the latest statistics are not yet available, bakers know that consumption is decreasing – production indicators indicate this. At the same time, sales of various pastries and cakes are increasing.

Latvian Radio asked shoppers how often they eat traditional rye bread:

"Every other day. I love it, especially if it's a little toasted and with butter. Schools usually give, at least at my school, where a basket of rye bread stands and everyone can take it. And coarse bread is definitely healthier than burgers."

"I like it, but one without yeast. There is little choice in shops without yeast."

"I eat little bread at all, but if I eat, it's mostly rye bread. I'm conservative, [..] yes, my grandchildren eat, we eat rye bread in the family. We have such tastebuds."

"Of course, it's innate in every family to have healthy rye bread."

Bakers say that rye bread sales have stabilized after falling in previous years.

"In some months [demand] falls, then increases.  [..] The buyer walks from one manufacturer to another. Looks for something new. There's no increase there, I don't see anything rising," Normunds Skauģis, the owner of the bakery "Lāči", said of the demand.

According to him, the sale of pastries and cakes is also stable, in any event, there is no drop. At present, however, the purchasing power of the population as a whole is a big challenge. The population in the country is declining, shoppers' habits are changing, so manufacturers are constantly having to think about new products.

Raimonds Biedriīis, the owner of "Grauda spēks," said he buys the grain himself and then mills whole grain flour. His products have about 30% rye and 70% wheat. Before the Covid pandemic, "Grauda spēks" had a good collaboration with hotels, but as part closed, rye bread consumption also fell. 

"Yes, there is a tendency for rye bread to be picked less. We've developed one other product, which is a little alternative to classic rye bread, like muffins, and they go well. Here's the question of how we could wrap that rye bread in a slightly different format, which is more convenient for people. Most already think about it. Good partners are Limbaži Lielezers, who keep thinking something new and innovative because you can't sit on the old recipes, have to keep track of the time and offer the consumer something convenient and simple," Raimonds Biedrītis said.

The Latvian Society of Bakers has been trying to achieve the introduction of a special rye bread program in schools for several years. Normunds Skauģis sees this as an important measure, firstly, for children to eat healthier and secondly, it is a matter of Latvian traditions.

The Latvian Society of Bakers is currently actively working on the introduction of the rye bread programme as a pilot project in schools and pre-school institutions together with the Ministry of Agriculture, and it will become clear in the coming weeks when this could happen.

During this period it is planned to share free rye bread among pupils, as well as the bakers themselves will visit schools to talk about their trade and rye bread making.

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