Seren Charrington-Hollins, Food Historian

The 1930s spelled mixed fortunes for baking and the bakery industry.

On the positive side of things, the trend for home baking was still increasing and the rise in car travel meant that things such as picnics became popular, with a variety of baking recipes suitable for dining outdoors being featured in books, magazines and recipe booklets.

This was good business for commercial bakers because as the fashion for picnics soared, men who wished to spend a romantic afternoon by the river could purchase all the baked delights necessary to woo their chosen love interest from their local bakery.



Lady Home Baking

However, the decade was by no means a picnic.

The 1930s was the decade that saw the Great Depression migrating to the UK and this meant that many households were unable to sustain their purchase of luxury baking ingredients, so economical recipes using cheaper ingredients including margarine became commonplace in the kitchen. 

The commercial baker also had to be mindful of the economy and adapt their bakery businesses to reflect the economic downturn.


Throughout the 1930s the British economy was an uncertain one.

Unemployment and poverty were rife in large areas of Wales and Northern England, though parts of Southern England enjoyed a building boom that was fuelled by cheap interest rates.

Whilst Welsh and Northern bakers were turning their attention to economical recipes that were filling and cheap, some Southern bakers were able to continue baking luxury treats to titillate the taste buds alongside the daily staples.

Out of economy often comes iconic foods and the 1930s was no exception. It was during the 1930s that recipes for banana cakes first appeared in cookbooks and grocers were quick to share such recipes with customers, helping them to sell over-ripe fruit and aiding customers to use up ripe bananas at home and avoid wastage.  






It was actually 1928 that the first bread slicing machine, invented by Otto Rohwedder, was unveiled and exhibited at a bakery trade fair in the United States.

It was a huge success as the idea of evenly sliced bread without effort appealed to American customers and by 1933 approximately 80% of all-American bread was sold sliced and wrapped.  It wasn't long before British bakers wanted a slice of the action and in the 1930s large UK bakeries began to take onboard commercial slicers and sliced bread first appeared in shops. 

The world of bread was beginning to change and commercial bakers were embracing innovations in the way bread would be sold and eaten. Such innovations eventually gathered pace, but the end of the 1930s spelled some changes that bakers could not control nor predict; those associated with wartime.






In 1939 at the outbreak of war, the humble loaf of bread represented such an important part of the diet of soldiers and the home front that the role of the British baker was considered one worthy of protection.

Therefore, the role of commercial baker was classified as a reserve occupation; meaning bakers did not have to sign up to the armed forces.

Uncertain times lay ahead as Britain declared war, but the role of the baker was secure, though recipes were set to change.

One of the immediate changes was that the slicing and wrapping of loaves was prohibited during World War II as an economy measure, but many more bread and baking economies were to follow.