Bread vending machines appear in France

Ouest France, a local and national French newspaper, recently reported that there has been an “unprecedented level of bakery closures” in rural areas. While the number of bakeries in France overall is increasing within major cities like Paris and Marseilles, family-owned bakeries in villages are decreasing at a rate of four percent or higher within a single year.

France is one of the few countries in the world that maintains records of its bakeries, and according to a government report from 2017, half of the nation lives within 1.4 miles of a bakery, and within cities nearly 73% live within half a mile.

La Chapelle-en-Juger is one town in the coastal area of Manche, where 50 traditional bakeries have closed and 20 more are expected to follow. Jeannot Culeron, the owner of a bakery in nearby Marigny-le-Lozon, expressed his concerns about the trend to the New York Times.

“When villages lose their bakery, they cry ‘What a tragedy!’” Culeron said. “But they have to be willing to walk the talk.”

After their local bakery closed almost two years ago, many residents of La Chapelle-en-Juger resorted to Culeron’s bakery to purchase fresh bread and other goods.

In lieu of these bakeries, a company called Le Bread Express has opened 120 bread-vending machines in France. However, the company’s CEO, Benoit Herve, prefers to call them micro-bakeries due to their design.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, each machine holds at least 100 half-baked breads, bought from a wholesale bakery and kept frozen until they need to be heated. Once a customer uses the machine to make a purchase, the appropriate number of breads is baked and kept in hot storage for 10 minutes. Any bread that is left for longer than 90 minutes is thrown out. The customer could either wait for their order or pick it up at a later time.

One of the machines has been installed in San Francisco. Members of the Guilford community expressed their perspectives on the emerging technology.

“One of my students bought strawberries from a vending machine in Germany,” said Janet Starmer, a French professor at Guilford. “Personally, I would only do it out of desperation. Am I really going to want to go to a vending machine to wait for bread to bake? I don’t know.”

Students also voiced their hesitation of the machines.

“I think baguettes are intended to be eaten fresh, from a baker,” said Colin Ganges, a senior and a philosophy major. “Presumably, if you get them out from a vending machine, they wouldn’t be as fresh.”