Sliced white no more: Artisan bread takeover


Heading out for brekky at a hip local café is a Saturday activity many spend their week eagerly anticipating.

Imagine the disappointment one might feel at being served up some ordinary old sliced white alongside their poached eggs and grilled halloumi.

The trend towards ‘artisan’ bread didn’t happen overnight, and change has been insidious. On the front line observing it all has been Andrew Bertalli, the fourth generation owner of Bertalli’s Alpine breads – a specialty bakery in regional Victoria trading since 1931.

As Bertalli tells Dynamic Business, particularly in the past two decades Australians have become much more discerning when it comes to their bread.

When the Bertalli’s found their business at a crossroads in the early 1980s, with major players in the bread industry threatening to overshadow their business – they decided to reinvent themselves as sourdough specialists.

“We knew that the major players were going to come to Benalla and suck that part of our business out of us, so we decided to do sourdoughs, which was quite innovative back then. These days we’ve also responded to dietary requirements, so gluten-free, spelt and other wheat-free breads are becoming more popular too,” Bertalli says.

Had the family not ventured into the artisan bread market, Bertalli believes the business would not still be around, with sliced white sales having dropped dramatically for Bertalli’s Alpine breads.

Indeed, according to a recent National Nutrition Survey, Australians are eating much less bread day-to-day than 20 years ago. Back then 80 per cent of Aussies ate bread everyday, compared to just 65 per cent nowadays.

Yet while the drop is self-evident, the death knell has not yet rung for the sliced white.

Georgie Aley, managing director of the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council, says although the current national health fad means people are more interested in wholegrain bread, white bread is still the most common bread type.