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Vive la baguette?

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All it takes is a stroll on a quiet Sunday morning in Paris, to bump into them: people lining up on the sidewalk. Go down a few streets and new queues will appear. They want their baguettes fresh for breakfast - even if they have to wait outside for 15 minutes.

"It's just part of our culture," explains Léon Olland, who leads the federation of bakers in the eastern region of Bas-Rhin. "For us, bread is something you preferably buy every day and at your own baker's shop."

It's true that bread plays an important role in the daily life of the French - but that may be changing. Many consume bread - baguettes, croissants, and brioches - at least three times a day, accompanying breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

But recent research shows that only half of young people (15 to 34 years old), consume bread in the morning.

"It's a result of the Anglo-Saxon influence," says Anne-Hélène Mangin of the market information group TNS Sofres in Paris. "In particular, young people prefer cereals for breakfast. This habit is very much on the rise, but very un-French as well.''

Bakers are encouraged, however, that 20 percent of French teenagers snack on bread or baked goods between meals. (Only 6 percent of older French people do.) "Life has less rituals than before," notes Ms. Mangin. "People eat less at fixed times.''

Bread consumption also is a matter of culture and tradition.

"The French who were born before or during World War II think of bread as an essential element in their diet," explains Jean-Pierre Crouzet, who chairs the Conféderation Nationale de la Boulangerie-Pâtisserie Française, the national federation of bakeries. "They buy and eat food for its nutritional value. Young people eat what they like.''

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