There is a fine thread linking the pandoro and panettone as we know them today with the shipwreck of the ocean liner Princess Mafalda on October 25, 1927 off the coast of Brazil. And if things had gone differently in that dramatic sinking that cost the lives of 314 people (657 according to the newspapers in South America), we would most likely bring out something completely different to enjoy at the end of the Christmas dinner. On board that steamer, which had left Genoa two weeks earlier, there was a semi-unknown man from Verona: Roger Bauli.
In 1922, exactly one hundred years ago, he founded a pastry shop of modest success in Verona and he also sensed, despite having no academic qualifications, that waiting for the usual 40 hours of leavening between one batch of panettoni and the next was too long. In fact, he was the first to devise a rudimentary “production line” in which a new dough was prepared every 20 minutes, while still maintaining the quality of the yeast unaltered. Between the two wars he decided to perform the “technical trials"” of industrial production in South America. And thus, he boarded the ocean liner and ended up among the lucky few who survived.
In 1922, Bauli opened the first pastry shop in the center of Verona
“In Veneto, we say: 90% effort and 10% luck. If you don't put in the effort, luck alone does little,” explained the current president Michele Bauli, grandson of the founder, during the event celebrating the company's 100th anniversary. Today, Bauli has more than 1,600 employees, a turnover of €540 million and 260 products sold in more than 70 countries around the world.
“It takes a strong drive for work, there are no secrets,” continues Michele Bauli. “Just look at the lives of those who have been successful; luck certainly counts, but very little compared to the sacrifices. It is the passion and the spirit of enterprise that make the difference. Just think that my grandfather didn't even have a definitive recipe because, with every new dough, he tried adding butter or changing something and was constantly learning and experimenting. He was always working, and when I say always, I mean he didn't work for two afternoons a year: Christmas and New Year. His children did the same and we do more or less the same.”
Today, Bauli has more than 1,600 employees, a turnover of €540 million and 260 products sold in more than 70 countries around the world
In 1922, Bauli opened the first pastry shop in the center of Verona; then in 1937, he returned to Italy, founding the company in the 1950s, entering the market of croissants and no longer seasonal products in the 1990s, most recently acquiring brands such as Alemagna, Casalini, Motta, Bistefani, Doria and opening two factories in India (for products intended for the Asian market, which today is growing at a rate of 30% per year) and culminating in the production of gluten-free, protein-rich and low-protein lines.
“Today, when I see someone on the street carrying one of our pandoros or another of our products, I want to give them a hug!” jokes Michele Bauli. A piece of entrepreneurial history that is interwoven with the history of Italy. Suffice it to say that, according to a recent survey, the song that people most identify with Christmas, after the festive hymns, is A Natale Puoi (At Christmas, You Can), written specially for a Bauli TV commercial.
In fact, Bauli has just launched a new commercial C’è un Natale per ognuno di noi (There is a Christmas for each of us), a tribute “to the uniqueness of people,” which continues the tradition of quality short films that began in 2017 with Due Sorelle (Two Sisters), a veritable mini-film made by Paolo Genovese. The star of this commercial is now a ‘goth’ teen and her younger brother who is determined to make her rediscover the spirit of Christmas beyond stereotypes. The theme tune, unsurprisingly, is an unmissable arrangement of the song A Natale Puoi by Francesco Vitaloni.
There is certainly no shortage of challenges for the next 100 years. “I have never experienced such a complex time,” he explains. “We got through a very complicated but very well managed pandemic, with the world that couldn’t wait to get started again, perhaps even a bit too much, and this created a surge in prices; then the war, the energy shortages... this period will last at least another year but it will pass, we've been through worse.”
According to a recent survey, the song that people most identify with Christmas, after the festive hymns, is A Natale Puoi (At Christmas, You Can)
Today, the confectionery group is wagering on two new ideas in particular: the Minuto di Bauli — a dozen shops scattered throughout Italy where you can enjoy freshly baked Bauli products — and the TuoBauli — a panettone that can be customized right down to the individual ingredients, which is then baked just for you and delivered directly to your home. “When we decided to seasonally adjust our products by entering the croissant market, people thought we were crazy,” says Michele Bauli, “but we are still here and we have grown massively thanks to the choices we made. Where we will be in another hundred years, I don't know, but with this passion we can grow further and continue to be the pandoro company from Verona but also many other things besides.”
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