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The rise and rise of bread: Bakeries now feel the heat

By Graham Kajilwa | June 28th 2021
Home baking is not for poor people. It is done by those who want to have something different and can afford a small oven in the house. [Courtesy]

Growing up, bread was such a big deal for many Kenyans.

It was for special occasions unlike today when it is a permanent feature on the breakfast table, especially in many urban homes. Back in the day, it was unimaginable that one could make their own bread at home; the recipe, just like the case with Coca-Cola was a thing of mystery for many.

Well, not anymore. While the Coca-Cola formula is still a well-guarded secret, the same cannot be said of bread.

Today, anyone with a simple oven can bake their own bread in their kitchen or buy it on the cheap from the many corner bakers in their neighbourhoods.

Bread is no longer a preserve of the rich or city dwellers.

It has become ubiquitous such that the big manufacturers now have to fight for market share with mini bakers and homemade bread.

The most recognised brands such as Festive, Elliots, Supa Loaf and Broadways now jostle for shelve space with all manner of brands, including those by major supermarkets that now make their own bread in their bakery sections.

The latter is usually cheaper and guarantees freshness as it is baked on-site.  Broadways Bakery Managing Director Bimal Shah acknowledges times have changed, and competition is growing but insists the rest of the crowd have some catching up to do.

“Home baking is not for poor people. It is done by those who want to have something different and can afford a small oven in the house,” he said. 

Mr Shah said home baking should be encouraged as it offers consumers choices and a means of earning a livelihood for others.

“We are not against home-based bakeries. It is how people will grow to bigger businesses,” he said.

Established bakeries have also been on the receiving end of government policies as the taxman struggles to raise additional revenues to fund the Budget.

In the recently delivered 2021/22 Budget, Treasury through a proposal in the Finance Bill, 2021 has sought to put a 16 per cent value-added tax on bread.

MPs, however, shot down the proposal alongside others imposing duty on the purchase of motorcycles, cooking gas and bank loan fees. They instead proposed to have wheat, a key ingredient in the making of bread zero-rated. 

The price of bread vis-a-vis the weight, which has for long been disputed after it emerged most of the most popular brands do not meet the 400-gramme required weight. The Competition Authority of Kenya also reprimanded bakers for misleading consumers about the expiry date of their products.

It is such revelations that pushed Flora Inoda to start her bread-baking enterprise from her kitchen.

She said while she learnt how to bake from her college days, she only took it seriously last year.

“You buy bread from the supermarket only to find it has expired, but you are already home and cannot return it,” she said.

She sells a 400g loaf of bread at Sh50, which is Sh5 or Sh10 cheaper compared with some of the established brands. Broadways’ Shah said they have had to innovate to keep up with the changing tastes and preferences of their customers.

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