From a relatively small and unpopular sector, baking in the Philippines has grown into a large industry that provides greater business and employment opportunities. The industry, which is primarily traditional in nature, has continued to thrive in today’s modern era as it welcomes and embraces technology and culinary trends, slowly but surely.

Baked goods such as breads and cakes have become a huge part of Filipino lifestyle. Almost every household opts to enjoy their breakfast with a cup of coffee and bread, and celebrates special occasions with cakes. Breads, aside from being a reliable snack, also reflect the culture and history of some provinces in the country.

Considering the large and reliable Filipino market, the local baking industry remains strong. This can be seen in the number of bake shops and stores located in commercial malls and busy streets across the country.

According to the 2013 Annual Survey of Philippine Business and Industry (ASPBI), released by Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in 2016, bread, cakes, pastries, pies and similar ‘perishable’ bakery products were accounted for the most number of manufacturing establishments in the formal sector of the Philippine economy at 6,618 or 26.3% of the total. In terms of employment generation, it ranked second with 74,406 workers among other sub-classes in the manufacturing industry.

For the past years, changes in the baking sector is observed along with the changes in the tastes, preferences and lifestyles of most Filipinos.

From the traditional way of making breads and pastries through a brick oven, fired with wood, or “pugon”, most bakeries in the country today use electric or gas oven that requires less labor to operate and maintain.

The use of measuring cups made from plastic or wood are also fading slowly as digital weighing scale, which provide more accurate measurements, was invented. Moreover, recipes — which are primarily written in a piece of paper or passed from baker to baker by mouth — are now curated digitally and are shared in social media, giving bakers as well as home bakers the opportunity to try other recipes.

With the help of better equipment and technology, it has become easier for bake shops to operate efficiently and ensure quality in each product they offer. It also helps bakery chains to standardize recipes, making it easier for them to expand via franchising.

For small and medium-sized bake shops who can’t adapt to technological innovations, the Department of Science and Technology (DoST), through its Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP), helps small businesses address their technical problems by means of technology transfer and technology interventions.

Baker-entrepreneur Flora Martirez was named the 2016 Best SETUP (Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program) Adaptor in Caraga. —

SETUP is one of DoST’s flagship programs that encourages and assists small and medium-scale businesses to adopt technological innovations to improve their operations and boost their productivity and competitiveness. The SETUP interventions are focused on six priority sectors: food processing, furniture, gifts, decors and handicrafts, marine and aquatic resources, horticulture, and metals and engineering.

In particular, small and medium-sized bakeries can ask for assistance from the agency to help them acquire baking technologies such as spiral mixer, planetary mixer, roller machine, proofer, bread slicer, and gas oven.

Innovation in the baking industry does not just revolve on the baking process itself but also on the development and redevelopment of baked products. With the increasing need of consumers for variety, baked goods companies are now creating products that are healthier and taste better.

As observed, innovation today is no longer limited to pastries, cakes or bread loaves as even the popular local bread pandesal or salted bread is being reinvented, market research company Euromonitor International said in a 2015 report.

“A hotdog-flavored pandesal, for instance, is now available through Gardenia Philippines Inc. A healthier variant, meanwhile, can be bought through the bakery chain, Pan de Manila, which created a malunggay (horseradish) pandesal. The Food and Nutrition Research Institute, on the other hand, is promoting the selling of yellow pandesal, which contains squash puree, in public schools to help address the problem of malnutrition among children,” the report said.

The report added that innovation is expected to remain an important part of the local major players’ operations to sustain and improve their value share. 

“Aside from creating healthier baked goods, adding flavor especially to plain bread, such as pandesal, is expected to help drive purchases. Not only do tastier baked goods address consumers’ needs for variety, but will also afford them savings in both time and money as they can forego the use of spreads or fillings,” the report said.

Competition in the industry is becoming tighter nowadays. In a separate report by Euromonitor International in 2017, it said that more companies are expanding into baked goods.

In 2016, artisanal players led baked goods with a combined retail value sales share of 44%. The share was derived from both community bakeries around neighborhoods and high-end artisanal bakeries found in shopping centers. 

The report explained that, “Artisanal bakeries are able to compete mainly through their differentiated product offerings, which are freshly baked.” — Mark Louis F. Ferrolino