Reader question: I read your article about a baguette being priced at 29 centimes at Leclerc. I thought the price of bread was fixed in France - is that not the case?
The price of bread is not regulated by the state, as manifested by the current price war being waged between independent bakeries and supermarket chains such as Leclerc and Lidl, which have lowered the price of their baguettes to as little as 29 centimes.
However this has not always been the case and baguette prices (or rather related flour prices) were, as you thought, regulated but this stopped on January 1, 1987, when the government brought in a change allowing bakeries to set their price freely so as to ensure honest competition between businesses.
As well as price there is no law setting standards for the weight or height either of baguettes or other breads which leads to variations around the country.
For example, a baguette in the Paris region will weigh around 250g, while a “flute” - a thinner baguette - weighs 200g. In the department of Seine-Maritime, meanwhile, it is the opposite way round, according to the Confédération nationale de la boulangerie-pâtisserie française, France’s boulangeries and patisseries confederation.
By contrast, several articles from a 1978 law have regulated the specificities surrounding labeling products with their true weight.
How has the price of baguette varied over the years?
In 1960 a baguette cost 35 centimes of a franc (roughly equivalent to five centimes today), 1.67 franc in 1980 (€0,25) and 3.14 franc in 1990 (€0,48). The price of a baguette has plateaued around 85 - 89 centimes over the last decade, according to statistics provided by Insee, France’s national statistics institute.