This is a fabulous time to be in the bread business, arguably the best in history. We have never had a more food-educated public in the United States than now and they are demanding hand crafted, wholesome products just like what we produce at Great Harvest. Artisan baking is seemingly everywhere these days, gracing the covers of two of the best known food publications that appeared in my mailbox this month. The Saveur Magazine article, entitled “American Bread” states “the artisan bread movement has changed the course of baking in this country,” and speaks of bread epiphanies and of an “almost mystical revelation that bread could be this good.” It even talks about a couple of “innovative” bakeries that are installing stone mills on site for fresher flour. Great Harvest has had fresh ground whole wheat flour from on-site mills at every bakery for over thirty years. Couple this with the rediscovered appreciation and growing popular opinion towards the power of a diet based on whole grains and we have a winning combination propelling us to the next level of sales and customer satisfaction. Excited for the future? You bet I am!
Do you remember your first slice of hot Great Harvest Bread off a breadboard, slathered in dripping butter and drizzled with honey? I do. It was a religious experience that eventually led me to Dillon, MT where I now create new varieties of this addictive bread and teach future owners how to make perfect loaves of the best bread on earth. What a privilege and an honor. I recently had the pleasure of spending some time with Pete Wakeman, the man who founded Great Harvest along with his wife Laura in 1976. This is a guy who was intensely dedicated to great product and it was fascinating to hear of the old days when people were first rediscovering amazing hand-crafted loaves of whole wheat bread after decades of white industrialized fluff. I believe we are in just such a scenario once again. Artisan bread has come full circle and the appreciation of whole grain eating has reached new heights – even greater now than in the 1970’s.
With almost 600 million acres dedicated to planting it worldwide, wheat is the number one source for human nutrition on the planet. It has helped build civilizations since the Neolithic period around 9,000 BC – with good reason. It is a nutritional powerhouse, supplying very efficient sources of carbohydrates and protein and different breeds of it will grow almost anywhere from the arctic to the equator.
Bread is amazing on its own, but in many cultures around the world it also acts as a primary source of nourishment with the protein and or sauce treated more like a condiment. It has been this way for thousands of years. Bread is magic. Bread is a vehicle, bread works like a sponge, bread is a utensil and it is a handle. It goes with absolutely everything! This is the secret to our business – people love bread and they love what they can do with bread. I have always been a huge lover of bread. In my family, bread has always accompanied every meal as faithfully as a glass of ice water. For breakfast it appears as toast alongside eggs or cereal, for lunch we eat it as a sandwich or alongside a salad and it is on the table at dinner every night. Growing up in our house with a family of six, when the meat ran out my two brothers and I – all teenagers at the same time – would pour extra gravy all over slices of bread on our plates in order to fill up. To this day, one of my favorite things about bread is sopping up whatever delectable liquid is left on my plate at the end of a meal.
At its core, bread is one of the simplest foods on earth, made from five simple ingredients that utilize the miracles of biology and chemistry to produce an incredibly comforting, versatile product. At its core, our business is one of the simplest on earth. We make amazing artisan bread, we offer it hot to customers, and we get to see the smile on their faces as they become addicted breadheads. What a great time to be in the bread business.