Disruptive Bread

Poilane

I just read an interesting article on bread — French bread.

The story dates back to 1932 when Parisian baker, Pierre Poilâne decided to open his first bread shop on the busy rue du Cherche-Midi. The block was rife with other boulangeries. Whatever was M. Poilâne thinking?

Fast-forward to 2014 and any bread lover (such as myself) visiting that stretch of road in Paris’ toney Saint-Germain-des-Prés district will note that Poilâne is the only bread bakery left, some 80 years later. It turns out that M. Poilâne disrupted the bread industry.

Unlike his competitors, from the start, he did not bake the traditional French baguette. Instead, he concentrated on baking large sourdough loaves. His descendants still bake them today in his original antique ovens. Parisian families stop in regularly to purchase just enough slices for the day ahead. These lucky families enjoy the benefit of great-tasting, fresh bread and, probably, very little waste.

I tend to think of disruptive innovation as a modern concept, but this struck me as a great early example. I’ve visited this original Poilâne location and can happily attest to the quality of his longstanding product.

What other early examples of disruptive innovation can you share?

by Rebecca Cochran

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