Clean label, big sky

“Craft” plays an important part in the La Brea Bakery brand, and for its newest Reserve line, that starts with the wheat.

“When we got into La Brea Bakery Reserve, no one was asking for terroir-driven breads or I.P. wheat,” Mr. Blok said. “It wasn’t even on our consumers’ radar. But we knew about it and knew this kind of wheat could make a better bread, so it was our responsibility as market leaders to pursue that.”

In his pursuit of a farm-to-table experience, Mr. Davis met Dean Folkvord, chief executive officer, Wheat Montana Farms and Bakery, Three Forks, Mont. The first in the U.S. to grow hard white spring wheat, this company is known for growing and milling its own wheat in Big Sky Country. Wheat Montana then uses the flour for wholesale baking and also supplies it to retail outlets and other bakeries.

As a farmer, supplier and wholesale baker, Mr. Folkvord serves his customers in specific ways.

“It’s important for us to have conversations where we’re doing more listening with our customers and then responding accordingly,” he said.

Mr. Davis recalled that after some research into which heritage grains met La Brea Bakery’s criteria yet could also grow well and deliver quality characteristics, Mr. Folkvord discovered a small crop of Fortuna hard red spring wheat and scooped it up. Today, Wheat Montana grows Fortuna dedicated exclusively to La Brea Bakery and its Reserve line of breads.

Participating in a panel discussion at BakingTech, the American Society of Baking’s annual conference, Mr. Folkvord suggested that American bread has become “homogenized,” due in part to a general consumer expectation of all bread tasting a certain way.

“We’ve gotten ourselves in a situation where everything’s mixed together; all the wheat comes from millions of farms and then goes to the elevators and is turned into flour,” he told attendees. “Because we want consistent baking quality, everything ends up about the same in terms of flavor.”

Thanks to Fortuna, the La Brea Bakery Reserve line stands to change all that.

“Good taste and unique flavor attributes are the future,” Mr. Folkvord said. He also drew a parallel to the wine industry in terms of care, time and individualism. “If all the winemakers took their grapes and mixed them together so they were all the same, the wine industry would not be what it is today,” he said.

Partnering with Wheat Montana also further supports the clean-label, sustainability and non-G.M.O. initiatives led by La Brea Bakery and Aryzta.

“We have always operated on that level to where we wanted the cleanest ingredients and the most transparent label,” Mr. Davis said.

 Fortuna, as with all wheat, is non-G.M.O., and by partnering with the right suppliers and strategic product development, La Brea Bakery achieved verification from the Non-GMO Project after a nine-month process.

La Brea Bakery uses Fortuna wheat in its Reserve line as a whole-wheat flour, a white extracted flour and as a cracked grain.