The Rising Price Of Butter Could Be A Harbinger Of A French Croissant Crisis
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
News flash - the croissant is not in danger of extinction in France despite alarmist headlines this week which trumpeted a pastry panic and warned the buttery French delicacy could soon become a thing of the past. We're here to reassure you, not so, fake news.
But it is true that the price of butter in France has soared, nearly doubling over the last year. So the French could end up paying more for their pastries. Who better to ask about all this than a French baker? Francois Brault joins us from his bakery Panifica in Paris. Welcome to the program.
FRANCOIS BRAULT: Thank you.
BLOCK: And what have you been seeing with the price of butter that you use in your bakery?
BRAULT: I've seen the same news. And, in fact, I went back and checked exactly with my suppliers. And it's true that the price of low-quality butter has doubled.
BLOCK: Low-quality butter?
BRAULT: But high-quality butter we use, so far, they told me that the price I'm getting next Monday morning will be increased in price from what I paid last week. And they also said that we - I should see some more price increase towards a peak price in September.
BLOCK: So what's behind the price increases, whether it's for low-quality or high-quality butter?
BRAULT: I think it's a matter of supply and demand if maybe there is something in China that is importing milk, which makes it less available for turning into better.
BLOCK: More international demand falling milk yields, I've heard, too, there in France. Well, what does it mean for customers of yours who come into the bakery? Are they having to pay more already since butter prices have gone up?
BRAULT: First, we have to realize that when I sell bread or pastry, I don't sell flour. I sell labor. So the cost of ingredients is, roughly speaking, 25 percent of the full price of the goods.
BLOCK: So most of the price, you're saying, is the work involved in creating the pastry or the bread. How much does a croissant cost right now at your bakery?
BRAULT: For us, it's 1.20 euro...
BLOCK: 1.20 euro.
BRAULT: ...Which is clearly upscale. But again, we are using high-quality butter. We are using organic flour. And all we make is made in-house.
BLOCK: I'm telling you a $1.30, a $1.35 for a wonderful croissant sounds like a pretty great deal to me.
BRAULT: For New York or Washington, it would be a very, very nice price. Same for Tokyo. And by the way, butter is about 75 percent of the cost of ingredients in a croissant. So the butter price does make a difference for the price of the croissant.
BLOCK: Are you hearing many people talk about the butter price hike and the possible shortage of butter that might be coming?
BRAULT: My colleague bakers, they start to, yes. And they also - they say that they might end up increasing price. And they are worried because customers are extremely sensitive to the price of that beget and the price of the croissant. If you have to price increase price, you better communicate right. Otherwise, customers think that you are taking advantage of them.
BLOCK: Yeah. Do you think you could make a croissant with a butter substitute that would taste anything like the croissant that we know and love?
BRAULT: No. I don't think so. You can use margarine. But really, butter is king there.
BLOCK: Butter is king?
BLOCK: Yeah. I agree with you on that. That's Francois Brault. He's head baker and owner of Panifica, a bakery in Paris. Mr. Brault, thank you so much.
BRAULT: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.