German Bakers Claim New Aldi Automats' Output Is Half-Baked at Best

German Bakers Claim New Aldi Automats' Output Is Half-Baked at Best

Food & Drink

German Bakers Claim New Aldi Automats' Output Is Half-Baked at Best

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Photo by Sol Neelman for The Wall Street Journal

A big bakery brouhaha is heating up in Germany between the country’s bread bakers and Aldi, the discount supermarket chain.

At issue are vending machines which have been installed in hundreds of Aldi stores in Germany that dispense “fresh” bread and rolls in just a few seconds.

According to a story by Vanessa Fuhrmans for WSJ.com, for just a few cents tossed into one of these massive automats, you get a warm roll in a handful of seconds. In a country that prides itself of the bakery craft, this just does not seem right. Printed right on the machines is the word “Backofen” (or baking oven). As one German baker, quoted in Fuhrmans’ article said, “Whatever goes on in there, it’s certainly not baking.”

The German Bakers’ Confederation, keepers of the country’s centuries-old bread baking tradition, disputes Aldi’s claim that the bread and rolls are “fresh.” The organization is taking Aldi Süd—one of the two companies that make up the Aldi empire—to court on claims of deceptive advertising. Aldi Süd rejects the claims in the suit.

Aldi says, in an email, that the vending machines represent a “technological innovation” in automated baking. A large industrial baker supplies the already shaped dough, the company wrote, which is partially baked outside the machines. Once inside, a “lengthy build-up of heat allows the flour to gelatinize…therefore a baking process is taking place,” Aldi Süd added. “The goods are not merely being ‘browned.'”

In another country, this vending machine flap might not generate such passion. But Germans revere their baked goods. The average German citizen consumes nearly 200 pounds of it (192 to be exact), while the baguette-loving French eat about 120 pounds per capita annually.

We’ll have to keep an eye on this pending case, because if these machines continue to be a hit in Germany, perhaps they’ll soon be making their way into the Aldi Stores in the USA.

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