TODAY'S CONSUMERS ARE a discerning and demanding lot. They want more than just, well, bread and butter. Although bread is very much a staple food, the plain, white or brown loaves will not do for some Hongkongers. They want new, innovative offerings and some have acquired a taste for western products. So bakeries have to constantly bake something new and come up with the greatest thing since sliced bread to satisfy buyers' refined or finicky palates. 'Everyone likes bread, but as people travel and become more cosmopolitan, they come to like western bread,' said Hazel Cheung, executive chef and partner at Ali Oli. 'European breads are rustic, home-style, more traditional and not so commercial. They have been neglected by the market, but people want them.' Ms Cheung tries to widen her market by expanding her range of products to include cakes, pies and preserves. 'I also try to educate customers so they know what to look for in particular breads,' she said. As consumers become more sophisticated, bakeries such as BreadTalk try to engage them by offering them more choice. The bakery introduced artisanal buns with new ingredients and toppings, such as pork floss. As if this is not enough, the buns are given quaint names such as 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Bacon'. The idea is to 'bring the products to life', said BreadTalk operations manager Gady Cheung. Customers can also see what is cooking at BreadTalk. With its open kitchen, the bakers are no longer just backroom boys; they are also trained to interact with and serve customers, and help swing the buying decision, all part of BreadTalk's effort to create a bread culture. As the bakery industry responds to needs and demands, consumers can have their cake, or bread, and eat it too.