Why A French Supermarket Chain Is In Hot Water Over Its Baguettes

Outside of France, finding a baguette that actually lives up to the French standard can be hard to come by. Unless you don't mind settling for bread that's merely shaped like a baguette, your best bet is to buy a loaf at an artisan bakery. In France, however, it's a different story. Considering it's the birthplace of the baguette, it makes perfect sense that you can get a high quality baguette anywhere, even at the local supermarket. According to The Guardian, that's exactly where more French shoppers than ever may be headed — well, one supermarket in particular.

Leclerc (one of France's largest grocery store chains, according to Expatica) recently announced it will be now selling baguettes for only 29 centimes. That's well below the current cost of a baguette, which averages at around 90 centimes everywhere else. In recent advertisements, the chain explained that it has vowed to decrease profit margins in order to freeze baguette prices at its stores and ensure they're never affected by inflation. Leclerc's decision has made consumers happy, but bakers, not so much.

The baking industry believes Leclerc's baguette prices are unethical

For bakeries that charge any higher than Leclerc's 29 centimes, the chain presents stiff competition, but this isn't reason enough for them to cave to the pressure. According to The Local France, the price of wheat has increased significantly due to the poor quality of the most recent harvest season. As a result, baguette prices have gone up by about 10 centimes, though many bakeries have managed to keep each loaf below one euro.

In order to both pay bakers a livable wage and keep up with production costs, it's impossible to sell baguettes at Leclerc's rate, Connexion France shares. "Mr. Leclerc will need to explain to us how he plans to pay bakers by charging 29 centimes per baguette," Farming union FNSEA president Christiane Lambert told FranceInfo (as translated by Connexion France). Bakers also argue that Leclerc's prices cheapen the art of baguette making, a cornerstone of French food culture and the livelihood of many of its citizens.

The Leclerc group, seems to be unmoved by the pushback from the industry. Connexion France shares a quote from a company spokesperson on how it plans to make these cuts while still paying a living wage, stating this is "100% financed by our shops, which will cut into their margins so they can offer this price." Unfortunately for small bakeries trying to compete, that option may not be available.