When the economy got into serious difficulties due to the corona pandemic in spring 2020, Dietrich Praum was able to look on calmly.

Because rusks, his company's bread-and-butter business, are currently a crisis product.

The rusk sales of FW Praum GmbH soared by nine percent in 2020 because the Germans started hoarding and stocking up on long-life foods.

Manfred Koehler

Head of department of the Rhein-Main editorial team of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

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However, it has always been the case that double-baked bread is particularly in demand when something is wrong.

No matter how much effort the manufacturers put into marketing, rusks are mainly served when the stomach and intestines are out of sync.

Unlike in Italy and France, as Dietrich Praum, who runs the family business in the fifth generation, knows: many people there regularly eat rusks for breakfast, even if they are not doing badly.

In Italy in particular, sales are probably three times as high as in Germany.

However, they have their own manufacturers and do not wait for German goods.

But at Praum they have established themselves in the home market: apart from times of major pandemics, no growth rates can be achieved,

Around 170 years of rusks from the Taunus

The history of the company dates back to 1850.

In the best of times, it was one of 38 companies in Friedrichsdorf that specialized in rusks, after Christoph Stemler, who had moved here from the Hintertaunus, had started producing the long-life pastry in 1788, which he had probably encountered on Dutch warships.

"Zwiebackhausen" was the popular name of Friedrichsdorf for a while, but all that is long gone.

Praum was the last manufacturer on site, but moved to Neu-Anspach in 2010 due to lack of space.

In general, the number of rusk producers has decreased significantly.

The Brandt company, based in Hagen in Westphalia and manufactured in Thuringia, has been the market leader for a long time.

Praum itself sells the various types of rusks that come off the production line at the company only regionally, including in Rewe stores and here and there at Edeka.

In addition, there is a small factory outlet in Neu-Anspach, where you can also buy the largely unknown product that logically precedes the rusk: Einback, a sweet pastry with a short sell-by date and usually only a short-lived intermediate product.

The long sticks of Einback are sliced ​​at the Praum factory and then roasted for eleven minutes.

It is only this second step that turns the bread into a two-bake or rusk, dry and therefore long-lasting.

Right next door, the company produces other products - biscuits and snacks.

All of this is sold under the Sommer brand via natural food retailers, i.e. in health food stores and organic markets.

Sommer was once a rusk bakery in Friedrichsdorf, but the brand was acquired in 1930 by the grandfather of the current boss.

This second line of production has existed since 1998 and is almost entirely Demeter-certified;

In any case, almost all of the company's products meet the simpler EU organic standard.

While the rusk market is stagnating, there is a lot of movement in this market segment.

"That's the brand we put our work into," says Dietrich Praum about Sommer.

You're always working on new nibbles and biscuits.

You can also buy those with hemp and with date sauce, with quinoa and with chili.

Numerous vegan products can be found, and also gluten-free ones, which are made in a separate hall.

Several dozen biscuits, sticks, crackers, bread chips and croissants run alternately over the different belts and are packed in bags.

Dietrich Praum describes the development of such new products together with his colleagues as the part of his work that takes up the most time.

He then looks around for other countries, especially France and Italy.

Not even every tenth idea matures into a product.

Above all, the Sommer brand pastries have contributed to the growth of the family business in recent years.

A decade ago, 60 men and women were employed, but now there are a good 100. Praum puts the turnover at 13 million euros.

Germany is the most important market, with exports accounting for around 15 percent of the business.

Recently, things have become a bit more difficult on the organic market because customers are turning to cheaper products because of inflation.

But Dietrich Praum does not seem as if he wants to put up with it.

He announces further innovations for the near future.