German bakery closes after 90 years as energy costs rise

COLOGNE: 90 years, Engelbert bad bells and whistlesThe family bakes wheat bread, rye bread and chocolate cakes in this West German town. Next month they will shut down the ovens for good, because they can no longer afford the rising energy prices caused by the Russian war in Ukraine.
Schlechtrimen’s grandparents founded the bakery in Cologne for the Second World War. The 58-year-old took over the business from his father 28 years ago and turned it into an organic store that uses traditional recipes and forbids chemical additives in the bakery.
Yet even these innovations will not save him from closing the family business – consisting of a bakery and two shops with 35 employees – after almost a century. It is a victim of a European energy crisis caused by Russia’s cuts to natural gas, which is used to heat homes, generate electricity and power factories.
The resulting increases in energy and power prices have pressured companies that are already struggling with a rise in other costs as inflation rises.

German bakery closes after 90 years as energy costs rise

“For some time now, we have been juggling multiple crises at once: job vacancies, staff shortages, shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, extreme increases in raw material costs, and now the explosion of energy costs and further rise in personnel costs,” Schlechtrimen said this week.
He pointed out that material costs are increasing by 50%. And “now there is also the energy cost crisis. So far we only see an increase of about 70%, because we heat the ovens with diesel oil. A quadrupling of the price is to be feared.”
Schlechtrimen tried to save energy where possible, but that was not enough to offset the growth costs.
He also raised the prices of his products to cover his rising costs, but customers, who are also tightening their belts as inflation rises, stayed away and turned to discount stores that sold industrially manufactured baked goods for less.
In the end, the Cologne baker had to admit that he was no longer making enough profit to maintain his business.
Schlechtrimen is not the only baker struggling to make a living in Germany today. Small family bakeries across the country are struggling to cover their costs.
“Many entrepreneurs in the bakery industry are concerned about how they will get through the coming months. They are facing a cost tsunami,” he said Friedemann Bergdirector of the German Bakery Federation.
“We would like to see a financial bailout for our bakeries, with the federal government providing assistance to help our businesses effectively, quickly and unbureaucratically,” Berg said.
The German government this month announced an additional investment of 65 billion euros in a new set of measures to alleviate the sting of inflation and high energy prices for consumers.
But for people like Schlechtrimen, help may come too late.

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