We all know what the baguette looks like, and we immediately think of France when we see one. In fact the baguette is an excellent example of how a visual update can revolutionise a product – from ordinary and plain to hot and unique!

 

There are many different stories about what lies behind the peculiar shape of the baguette. French bread is a hot topic – the flame to lit the French revolution in 1789 was lack of grains to produce bread – hence the amazing Marie Antoinette quote “let them eat cake”.

Theory 1: Increased post-revolution availability of wheat in combination with the development of steam ovens, created a new abundance of white bread and the special crust that surrounds it. Some say Napoleon wanted the bread to be slim so his men could carry it in their pants while going to battle.  

Builders from different districts often tended to fight each other with bread knives, which eventually were banned.

Theory 2: In 1920, new laws were enforced which prevented bakers from working before 4 am. The baking process had to be shorter, and one solution was to make the bread longer and thinner. The shape was not entirely new, but the name baguette made its first appearance.

Some say Napoleon wanted the bread to be slim so his men could carry it in their pants while going to battle.

Theory 3: Another, perhaps more enthralling theory suggests that the baguette was born during the construction of the Paris Metro system in the 1890’s. Builders from different districts often tended to fight each other with bread knives, which eventually were banned. The bread had to be baked more thinly so that it could be torn apart using hands only. Et voilà!

Talk to people from completely different industries, how would they approach your challenges?

Either way, the baguette has since its inception become an iconic trademark for France as a global brand.

What can we learn from this?

1. Don’t listen to the naysayers

If you ask enough people to comment on your new ideas, you will eventually always find someone who hates it. But sometimes we should do new stuff without asking. If your passion is there and the cost of failing is low, there’s no time to waste. Remember that “success is failure turned inside out”!

If you ask enough people to comment on your new ideas, you will eventually always find someone who hates it.

2. Take a different perspective

Visionary experiments aside, there is always room for improvements in the everyday life of your business. If you talk to people from completely different industries, how would they approach your challenges? Someone working in a hospital might have something interesting to say about efficiency (or hygiene!) while a marketing executive or food stylist will have completely different suggestions for improvements.

3. Optimise your processes

If you’ve ever studied business management, you have come across philosophies like Lean and Just-in-time. A big part of Lean is “continuous improvement”, which implies there’s always something you can do to improve your processes. You should always strive for smoother operations – be it in the kitchen, setting up tables or sourcing ingredients. Some claim tomorrow’s winners are those who have figured out the distribution and logistics puzzle properly. Save time, increase customer satisfaction, earn more money.

4. Innovate to create some buzz

Just like the baguette became iconic mainly due to its shape, you could also take an existing product and tweak it into something brand new. Hawaiian Bubbies are known all over the world for their snack-sized Mochi ice creams. The Swedish semla – a hamburger-like bun with almond paste and whipped cream in the middle – was introduced in a different shape 2015 at the Tösse bakery in Stockholm, and their “semmelwrap” has been the talk of the town ever since. Oh, and don’t ever forget the world-famous Cronut from New York.

The “semmelwrap” has been the talk of the town ever since. Oh, and don’t ever forget the world-famous Cronut from New York.

5. Stand out in a crowd

How would your customers and employees describe your establishment? Do you have a USP – a Unique Selling Proposition or a clear, sharp brand image? You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but perhaps it’s time for some soul-searching in order to make a longer-lasting impression?

 

Born and raised in Gothenburg, Sweden, Mathilda Ritzén admits that she consumes more sourdough and crispbread than baguettes.