The Green Bakery
Location: Colfax, WI
Years in Business: Since 2010
No. of Employees: 4 part-time
Products: Organic, vegan, and gluten-free breads; chickpea, basic brown rice, millet, and sorghum
Owners of a 250-acre River Haven cooperative located just south of Wheeler, WI, wanted to start a bakery to serve a unique niche. They were aware of a Twin Cities supermarket chain that had been struggling to locate quality, good-tasting gluten-free (wheat-free) breads with no preservatives. However, none of the owners had commercial baking experience. One of the co-op owners, Ann Woods, had a background in business management but she needed assistance. Ann talked with UW-Stout Discovery Center employees Dr. Renee Surdick, Research Specialist and Ted Theyerl, NWMOC Project Manager.
Ann hired UW-Stout students Philip Rizzo, who has a food science background and Alexandra Andersen, a dietetics major. Alexandra and Philip worked with Dr. Lamin Kassama, a UW-Stout food and nutrition professor to optimize the baking process and test the recipes for commercial production. Dr. Kassama also helped scale and perfect the recipes and research bakery equipment. The food labs at UW-Stout could support only 15 loaves per batch, however. Fortunately, Dr. Adiel Tel-Oren, one of the co-op owners, financed their new 1800 sq. ft. Green Bakery building. Dr. Surdick was aware of some grant funding available from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce to assist community-based economic development. The Discovery Center, which opened in 2009, coordinates on-campus expertise among faculty and students to conduct applied research and provide solutions for business and industry. This grant fund and another fund from the federal Economic Development Administration enabled university specialists to perfect the original recipes for commercial production. NWMOC Project Manager Ted Theyerl and Dr. Surdick worked together to keep the project on track.
UW-Stout students Philip and Alexandra taught one of the co-op owners, Randy McKee, how to bake the Green Bakery bread, according to Ann. "I can't say enough about how much the students and UW-Stout have helped us. They made the business with their drive, leadership, and competence." Philip recently developed the recipe for a new bread type--cinnamon raisin--which will be available soon. "He's leading product development and process refinement as well as researching the possibility for web-based sales," Ann added. Philip explained that as a food systems and technology food science student, application of knowledge is very important. "The Green Bakery has provided me with the experience to apply and grow my knowledge in gluten-free and vegan bread production. It has been a very enjoyable and satisfying experience," he commented.
Green Bakery breads are currently available at the Menomonie Market Food Co-op and Just Local Food in Eau Claire as well as stores in Hudson, WI; Woodbury, MN; and Burnsville, MN. Additional stores in Minnesota now carry Green Bakery breads: Plymouth and Shoreview. A company in Colorado offers gluten-free breads, but their grains are more heavily processed. "We are adding more food products: three types of cookies and three types of muffins. The recipes are in the testing and scaling phase. I will definitely come to Stout for assistance again, and hire more Stout students as we expand the Green Bakery business, or add new businesses. The value added by UW-Stout and its students has been astounding."