4 minutes

Ways to optimize the return rate in bakeries

90% of Germans consume bread at least once a day. Nevertheless, with 1.7 million tons, baked goods in this country are among the foods we dispose of most often, along with fruit, vegetables and leftovers. In order to be able to produce these products that are later disposed of in the trash, around 2.46 million tons of greenhouse gases are produced and an area of almost 400,000 hectares of arable land is required - which is slightly more than the size of Mallorca. At the same time, a study by Münster University of Applied Sciences shows that bakeries suffer weekly sales losses averaging 15,700 euros due to bakery waste.

In this article, we discuss the options that affected companies can use to act in a more sustainable manner, both economically and ecologically, and to reduce the returns rate.

In German households, bread and food scraps end up in the trash particularly frequently, in addition to vegetable products
In German households, bread and food scraps end up in the trash particularly frequently, in addition to vegetable products

Concepts for the reduction of back returns

The following concepts offer opportunities to minimize returns:

1. specializing in a greatly reduced range can already significantly reduce bakery losses. According to a survey of almost 500 customers, it was shown that more than 90% are satisfied even with an alternative bread instead of the desired product if it is already sold out. Thus, bakery stores are advised to reduce their portfolio and focus on the strengths of the craft. In the same way, strategic differentiation from other competitors can take place.

The ABC analysis is also often used, which we have already explained in our blog Knowledge is money. In the context of the analysis the assortment is divided into A, B or C-articles. Under A-articles those products fall, which make 75% of the conversion. It is therefore advised to offer these until closing time. At the same time, a guideline return rate of 10 to 15% has been defined for these products in order to achieve optimum sales and only minor sell-outs. B and C articles, on the other hand, should only be produced in small quantities and sold off promptly.

Another concept for reducing the number of returns is the Munich Hofpfisterei 's Happy Hour, in which bread that is still available is offered at up to 30% off at closing time. At the company's headquarters in Munich, there is also a "leftover bread store. Bread recycling of this kind is controversial in the industry, however, because bakeries fear that this could lead to the fallacy that bread loses value with each passing day.

Finally, the increased use of new media or online stores with the offer to pre-order desired products provides an option to prevent potential returns. In the online store of the Rischart bakery, for example, a variety of breads can be ordered for the next day at home.

Reuse of back returns

There are also in-house options for the sustainable reuse of returned bread. For example, the Bremerhaven Technology Center presented the possibility of producing a sweet syrup from leftover bread, which can be used as a recipe component for new baked goods. For this purpose, returns are crushed and mashed in water, and the enzymatic fermentation thus initiated is stopped by subsequent boiling. The rework technique can also be used, in which the stale bread is reintegrated into the production of a new dough in a similar way to syrup. For this purpose, the bread is crushed, dried in the waste heat of the oven and then ground into flour. By adding both the syrup and the bread flour, the newly baked product acquires a more intense flavor and stays fresh longer due to the improved water retention.

Raise awareness of the climate impact of returns

Another measure is training and knowledge transfer for employees. As the interface between production and customers, they are a key factor. In order to achieve sustainable changes in returns management in the industry, it is therefore conceivable to anchor the topic of food waste in their professional careers. Here, knowledge can be imparted on specific topics such as sustainability, food waste as well as its climate impact or the potential of using software solutions. In addition, this information can be passed on to customers on the sales floor, so that awareness of the topic is also created here. Point of sale materials such as brochures or posters can be used to support this project.

Avoiding unnecessary returns and relieving employees with software tools

Greenhouse potential of different foods in comparison
Climate impact of different foods in comparison

Bread in particular has a particularly high greenhouse potential in production, so the best baking returns from a climate perspective are those that do not occur in the first place. Bakeries are thus actively seeking to reduce their returns, in some cases by using complex, self-learning software products. These determine the optimal delivery quantity for individual outlets, based on sales history and even external factors such as current weather forecasts. To date, however, the bakery industry has been largely characterized by traditional communication channels despite the technology available, so there is a lot of potential here. Food waste is often caused by the supply of fresh products with a relatively short shelf life, a large number of products on the sales floor, and fluctuating demand, which makes it difficult to estimate the quantities required. This is where Delicious Data comes in. In addition to order recommendations, the Intelligent Daily Planner uses scheduled production tasks to help ensure that fresh products are always available in the required quantities. Manual baking plans and vague gut feelings are thus a thing of the past. In this way, daily work in the bakery store is simplified, while at the same time energy costs are reduced thanks to optimized baking planning.

Would you also like to achieve fewer returns and sell-outs while at the same time relieving your staff? We would be happy to advise you during a webinar or personal consultation!

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More profit.

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Less Food Waste.

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More time for customers.