As people seek to sate their appetite for indulgent treats, they’re looking to handcrafted, high quality bakery offerings for satisfaction. At Lune Croissanterie, a former aerodynamicist is applying her engineering skills to croissants, using science to add some magic to premium baked goods.
Before social distancing and lockdown measures came into effect due to COVID-19, at the first crack of light on any given day in Melbourne’s suburb of Fitzroy, people were queuing for croissants at Lune Croissanterie. Not just any croissants, but days-in-the-making, twice-baked, plain or filled, topped or dusted croissants. Works of pastry art. Precision-engineered. These Australian-made baked goods are French-inspired but with a twist.
Lune Croissanterie made its debut in 2012. Headed by brother and sister duo Kate and Cameron Reid, it began as a small spot in Elwood where the flaky croissants were passed to eager patrons – if they were lucky. Lune’s opening hours are ‘7:30am until sold out’ – a testament to their popularity. Kate’s science-based approach to creating the best croissant isn’t surprising, given her experience as an aerodynamicist for Formula One. Changing tack, she scoured Paris for the best croissants, took insights from its boulangeries, and returned to Australia to form Lune. It took around four months to reverse-engineer the method to make the croissants she wanted – “crunchy on the outside and beautiful, soft, and airy on the inside.”
Her strategy worked. Kate has managed to create a cult product that visitors both local and international will travel for – which prompted The New York Times to ask, “Is the world’s best croissant made in Australia?” By 2015, a business partnership with Melbourne cafe entrepreneur Nathan Toleman enabled Lune to open a flagship in Fitzroy, turning out thousands of croissants each week. In 2019, it opened a standing-room-only shop in Melbourne’s central business district, offering a menu of fan favourites. Pre-pandemic, Lune was preparing to expand interstate with its first permanent space in Sydney and as the pandemic keeps people out of public spaces, the croissanterie is enjoying a roaring trade with tasty takeaways.
When it comes to cafe and food culture, Australia has built a reputation for high-quality offerings. “It attracts a demographic that’s aligned with socials and wants to be out and be seen,” says Ashley Cooke, a consultant at Future Food. The global bakery product market is worth an estimated $203.8 billion USD, with the global pastries market expected to grow by 3.4% from 2020 to 2025. The market is being driven by higher demand, bespoke pastries, innovations, and an artisanal focus on aesthetic. Asia Pacific is the fastest-growing region, with specialty stores contributing significantly to that growth.
“Australia’s cafe and bakery culture is very fluid, with new trends emerging seasonally. Croissants, cronuts, and cruffins receive huge acclaim for a period of time and then fade,” explains Cooke. “It’s the operators that have honed their craft around these very ‘fads’ who are able to successfully build a following in this space.”
Among them, Bourke Street Bakery for pies, sausage rolls, and breads and Shortstop for doughnuts. “They are handmade, artisanal, and local. They have a story to tell and are able to adapt to new trends, which people want to engage with and support,” says Cooke. “The fact these operators are also very active on social media is no coincidence.”
Australians are more influenced by word of mouth, something that dominates social media. In fact, a high proportion of Australian’s conversations are related to restaurants and cafes (38%) and food and drink (34%). “People are happy to line up and wait for the service for the product and seek new experiences, and to tell people they were there,” explains Cooke.
Australia’s artisans are also using design to showcase their product. From the venue and layout to the staff on the floor and the food theatre, it’s all working to engage the customer’s head and heart. “Design-driven food creations go hand-in-hand with design-driven environments,” says Cooke. “Lune is going after a lean, sleek look. It’s all about the croissant that’s going to be in your hand. It keeps it very minimal so nothing clouds your experience.”
And right in the centre of the award-winning venue is a temperature-controlled glass box where its pastry chefs work with flair.  It takes customers on a journey, provides theatre and insight into the mechanics and production, and tells a story. “These provide the customer with an experiential and unique interaction,” explains Cooke. “If these are not offered, they will quickly find somewhere else to spend their dollars.”
Insights and opportunities
Exclusivity and elusiveness are powerful
According to Cooke, there’s a move towards the premiumisation of baked goods, with indulgent and bespoke desserts taking centre stage. With 62% of Australians saying they’re trying to eat better in order to improve their overall health, when it comes to sweet treats, it has to feel like it’s worth it. And limited offerings are helping to boost appeal – Lune and other artisanal bakeries are proving that business can be built on niche concepts and still draw crowds. “Crowds that expect lines, expect to get to the front of the queue and the item be sold out, or when they do get there, get the best product money can buy,” says Cooke. Small batches create a form of exclusivity, which appeals to our desire for niche and novel products.
Create loyalty with limited-edition experiments
Lune has embedded trial-and-error product development into its offer, upping exclusivity by offering pastry degustations, generally only seen in high-end restaurants. Tickets to taste a pastry flight of seasonal croissants and innovative concepts at Lune Lab are limited. “Proactive businesses will continue trialling and specialling new products to keep customers interested, whilst looking for the next ‘big thing’,” says Cooke. “However their core business often remains the same to not disappoint their loyal followers.” Francis Loughran, founder and managing director of Future Food, adds that historically Australia hasn’t been famous for its bakeries. He puts it down to several factors, including how Australian travellers have gone global to explore and integrate varied approaches to baking. “The artisan, novelty, jewellery-box element of bakeries is appealing to the Australian demographic. Bakery is a very accessible luxury, and the market is ready for it.”
Australians support local heroes
Australians also place value on local goods, with 90% preferring locally-made products over those crafted offshore. “People support home brands, and local has never been more valued than now. Authenticity is crucial in a world of man-made things. Authenticity in food is irreplaceable,” says Cooke. Local brands working with local businesses can establish connections and a story, which will prove more powerful as people look to support independent businesses post-COVID-19.
There’s the social element that this can facilitate, too. “There is a significant population in the Australian landscape who consider desserts and sweet foods as significant parts of their regular or daily food interactions,” adds Cooke. To gain a loyal following, brands would be wise to focus on aspects of community and brand narrative in their comms.
This case study was originally commissioned by Canvas8, and was published in May 2020.