instore - May 2018 - 77
The rise of rye
And while it is a big deal to get the certified
organic stamp on a product, producers who
don't earn it can still use the word "organic"
in the ingredients panel for all of the ingredients that are organic. Red Hen and other
companies also make a point in their marketing of letting customers and consumers
know that their foods are made in sustainable ways, aren't grown with chemicals, are
"pure," etc. "I see it a lot at farmers' markets
- more than of the farmers are non-certified," George says. "We're seeing a little bit
more education about what 'organic' means.
It comes down to how you market it, how
you tell your story."
The latest big venture for Red Hen is a greater emphasis on rye breads. It started when
a local farmer began growing rye as a cover
crop. There was only one problem: there
was no mill to mill it in. Red Hen took care
of that by buying its own mill, and George
set to work learning as much as he could
about milling. Red Hen now mills rye grown
on several local farms, and the company currently sells five different products that use
"Right now the thing we're most excited
about is rye breads," George says. "It's
still a small percentage (of Red Hen's total
production), but it's a growing a lot. We're
seeing a lot of increased attention in these
breads. And I'm excited about it from a
baking perspective. It's handled so differ-
ently than wheat. And it's another flavor, a
George characterizes rye as more of an
"earthy" flavor, compared to wheat's "nuttiness" - "a flavor you can't get anywhere
else," he says. The company is contemplating expanding beyond rye breads and exploring the possibilities for rye in pie crusts,
galettes and other baked goods.
Bread Alone also is ramping up its use of
rye. The company's new line of Nordic
breads, which it will officially launch at the
Specialty Food Association's Fancy Food
Show in New York in June, will contain New
York- and Pennsylvania-grown rye, spelt and
einkorn. "They tell an interesting 'grain story,' and we also just love the taste of them,"
Leader says. "There's been a lot of energy
invested in growing these grains regionally
in recent years. The climate here is much
more hospitable to rye and spelt. We think
this new line is a viable way to support this
regional grain economy."
Despite his approval of different interpretations of what "organic" can mean, the fact
remains that the majority of the breads
George bakes at Red Hen are certified organic - and for very good reasons.
"It's largely the case that organic producers
are smaller, and, more often than not, the
quality is higher," he says. "Food grown in
real soil with all of its micronutrients tastes
better and is better for you."
Thirty-five years after Bread Alone was
founded, its embrace of organic and its virtues has not loosened, Nels Leader says.
"What my dad could only intuit back in 1983,
we now know," he says. "I feel very confident
that organics are better for the people working the land. The research is cut and dry. I
in the U.S.
When certification becomes too burdensome for the growers and processors Red
Hen works with, the company will still support them. And George says the tide is beginning to turn in the court of public opinion:
people are starting to recognize that foods
can be grown and produced in sustainable,
healthy ways, even if they're not certified
organic. Red Hen's customers, for instance,
are buying more "Red Hen" than they're buying "organic," George says.
And speaking of the planet, this spring
Bread Alone completed construction of
a solar array on its roof that will generate
200 kilowatts of energy, enough to power
the majority of the company's bread-baking
operations, Leader says. "We covered every
square inch of the roof we could," he says.
On the negative side, George says, the USDA
certification process has been become more
"corporat-ized" in the years since it was adopted. "It's increasingly dominated by big
producers," he says. "It changes what it
means to be a small organic producer, and
we're fairly small."
Retail sales of
also believe they're better for (consumers)."
And there is no doubt, Leader says, that organic farming is better for the planet.
ing of organics. There are way more options
for consumers now, which is definitely a
Randy George, Red Hen's owner, says organic
tends to be higher quality. Photo: Red Hen
Taste, a good story and supporting local and
regional growers aren't the only things these
breads, known for their density and long fermentation, have going for them, Leader says.
"They have really good shelf life and wonderful shelf life."
commissary INSIDER * MAY 2018 * 77