Wastage in baking: how to avoid it?

by Lucile Tinchant
Wastage in baking

There is no secret: for your pastry to be profitable, you must find the right balance between the selling price offered to your customers and the cost price of your cake. In times of inflation in energy and materials costs, it is difficult to control purchase prices; so how can we avoid causing the sale price to explode? Tracking down waste becomes essential to avoid unnecessary expenses but also to optimize productivity.

In your production lab, here are some ideas to check: these different types of pastry waste may help you find additional sources of savings.

Food waste: where to track costs?

Cost of baking ingredients

Raw materials

The cost price of a pastry is determined in particular by the price of the raw materials used. Sugar, flour, eggs, butter, cream or chocolate are examples of raw materials whose quantity must be measured precisely and to limit losses, the ingredient must be weighed .
To optimize inventory management in baking, it is useful to invest in an automated inventory management system . This system allows you to track stock levels in real time and order raw materials based on actual needs. It is also important to train staff in inventory management and give them the tools to accurately measure the quantities of raw materials needed for each recipe.

Valuing unsold items

Unsold pastries represent a direct loss of turnover for the pastry shop.
To remedy this, it is interesting to set up sales statistics : for each product, according to the season or even by day, and to adjust them according to demand, weather, holidays or any other event likely to modify your customers' purchases. Products that sell less well can be replaced by more attractive products to avoid unsold items. And as a last resort, offer your unsold items on the “Too good to go” application : it allows people who have the application to come and collect a product or a batch from your pastry shop, at a price lower than the usual rate. This allows you not to throw away the merchandise and to add value to it, even if it is sold below its store price. Many students use it to be able to have fun while not sacrificing their budget. Another advantage: these customers attracted by the low price could perhaps become “regular” customers tomorrow after discovering your products?

Avoid expired products

Another source of waste in pastry: products whose expiry date has passed , or which have deteriorated prematurely due to poor practices (hand hygiene, poorly closed container, etc.).
It is important to regularly check the expiry dates of each product and of course to use them before they become unfit for consumption. To do this, get into the habit of organizing your stock so as to place the products with the closest expiry date closest to the pastry chefs, and those with a later date behind the previous ones, at the back of the shelves. And remember to update this storage with each delivery of products.
Also be sure to keep the labeling on which the expiry dates appear, in the case of grouped batches for example.
Finally, it is important to store products in suitable conditions to prevent them from spoiling prematurely.
[Little useful memo : the BPHP guide (good hygiene practices in pastry making)]

The 7 wastes inspired by lean

In addition to product waste, engineers who use Lean methods (1) identify 7 other types of waste (or “mudas”) that can be present in a pastry workshop.

1. Unnecessary travel 

Any travel not necessary to complete a specific task is considered waste. This may include excessive employee movement, unnecessary movement of ingredients or equipment. In order to limit them, the layout and organization of the lab must be optimized to limit unnecessary travel. Objective: speed up production!

2. Excessive inventory

Excessive inventory is another type of waste (of money and therefore cash flow, and storage space); they may actually hide quality and process issues, as errors can be masked by the availability of buffer stock.
Overstock also creates a risk of ingredients expiring early.
To protect against this, the ideal is to implement ingredient management inspired by the kanban method (2) : this involves determining the minimum and maximum quantity of each ingredient and PAI (depending on the quantity consumed on a daily or weekly basis, the supplier's time to deliver a new order, etc.) and identify them on the shelves with individual cards. When a pastry chef uses a product from stock, he takes a look at the defined minimum quantity. Once this quantity is reached, it then moves the Kanban card to a defined location to indicate that the reference must be reordered.
This system helps control inventory and avoid excesses or shortages.

3. Overproduction 

Producing more baked goods than needed, whether finished products or ingredients, can result in high storage and labor costs. Additionally, it can lead to a buildup of unsold and potentially wasted products.

4. Waiting times

In pastry, there are necessarily waiting times between the different stages of production; however, it is necessary to ensure that downtime is not unnecessary for employees and does not increase the total cost of production.

5. Unnecessary movements 

Track down gestures and movements that are not necessary to produce the final product. For example: looking for ingredients or poorly stored equipment is a waste of time; going to the storeroom several times to look for ingredients masks a lack of preparation for the task; the fact that the organization of laboratory flows is not optimized to limit gestures, or the lack of equipment which requires cleaning utensils more often than normal are losses of added value that must be reduced as much as possible.

6. Quality defects

Errors or defects in production require time for rework, but also waste of ingredients. To limit errors, setting up very detailed recipe cards or standard procedures ensures constant quality and efficiency when preparing pastries.

7. Unused skills

Make the best use of the talents and expertise of your pastry chefs so that they express their art in the service of quality and productivity. Offer them regular training to improve their skills, offer them complex and stimulating tasks or even share expertise or new learning with their colleagues: everyone has to gain from this sharing. Your employees will feel more valued, and you will improve the quality of execution.

As you can see, there is no magic recipe for reducing production costs in pastry making. On the other hand, by tracking these different types of waste, you will rationalize your production and find multiple sources of savings. As the saying goes “small streams make big rivers”. It's up to you to identify and activate the levers that will allow you to save money and maximize the profits of your pastry shop, while offering superior quality products to your customers.

→ Also see: 7 other ideas for saving money on baking

(1) Lean Manufacturing methodology is a technique originally applied to industrial production processes, which has gradually spread to all sectors of the economy. It aims to maximize value for the customer while minimizing waste. This approach focuses on eliminating any element of the production process that does not add value to the product your customer is ready to purchase.

(2) Kanban method : this is a method of organizing production which makes it possible to manage workflow and optimize the use of resources by following the principle of “just-in-time” production. ". This method is particularly useful for maintaining optimal inventory levels, reducing waste and improving the efficiency of production processes.

© Drawing of the 7 mudas: https://www.ma-boutique-en-lean.fr/