History of Sliced Bread - Modern Baking Industry

Sliced bread, a loaf of bread that has been pre-sliced with a machine and packaged, appeared for the first time on the market in 1928.

Picture - Sliced Loaf of Whole Grain Spelt Bread

Before the invention of sliced bread, bread was baked at home or bought in loaves. Whichever was the source of bread, the consumer had to personally cut off a slice of bread every time he wanted one. The the sliced bread appeared which would be sold pre-sliced. Inventor of the sliced bread was Otto Frederick Rohwedder from Davenport, Iowa, USA who invented the first bread-slicing machine which cut one whole loaf at a time. He began design of a bread slicer in 1912 but the factory that contained both the blueprints and the original prototype of his bread slicer was destroyed in a fire. The next fully working machine by Rohwedder was ready in 1928. Chillicothe Baking Company of Chillicothe, Missouri, was the first bakery to commercially use of the machine and it used it the on July 7, 1928. But, the slicing didn’t go without problems. Main problem and only reason why the most bakers didn’t want to adopt bread slicer in the beginning was fast staling of the bread because it was sliced and more open to air. Gustav Papendick, baker from St. Louis, bought Rohwedder's second bread slicer and tried to improve it by keeping the slices together long enough to allow the loaves to be wrapped. AT first he tried with rubber bands and metal pins, but rubber bands crushed the bread and metal pins fell out. He found out that if the slices are placed in a cardboard tray it will align the slices and that will allow machine to wrap the loaf. Loaves were wrapped in wax paper which kept them fresh for a longer time. The first commercially sold sliced bread was Wonder Bread, in 1930. By 1933, some five years after baking industry accepted Rohwedder's machine, 80% of the bread that bakeries in America made were pre-sliced with his machine. Sandwich bread quickly became a household item.

Sliced bread had one or two effects on consumption of bread. Because of the ease of eating another piece of bread, people ate bread more frequently and because of that consumption of spreads increased also. Because of that, in 1943, U.S. officials imposed a short-lived ban on sliced bread as a way to conserve food reserves in the time of war. Ban didn’t last long because savings were not too great.

Picture - Slices of Bread

Today, sliced bread is sold worldwide because of its convenience. Slices make bread easier to use as toast or for sandwiches. Thickness of sliced bread varies by country and company.

When it first appeared the bread was advertised as "the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped". From that tag line developed today’s phrase "the greatest thing since sliced bread" which is a commonly used syntagm as a hyperbolic way of praising an invention or development. Which probably says how much was sliced bread loved when it first appeared.

Picture - Toast Bread
Picture - Sliced Bread
Picture - Bread Biscottes