LAS VEGAS More than 20 years into business, St. Louis-based Companion Baking was running out of cash.

The bakery had grown substantially since its founding and added a new facility but was struggling to keep up.

“All the stuff I thought would get better with a new baking facility: margins, morale, quality, retention … it all got worse,” said founder Josh Allen at the International Baking Industry Expo (IBIE). “I truly failed to anticipate that scaling up a business can be a real recipe for disaster.”

At his IBIEducate session on Monday, Sept. 19, Mr. Allen shared how the bakery turned this around by looking in the unlikeliest of places — the trash.

Waste was a huge problem for Companion Baking as it grew. At its worse, the bakery was generating more than 1.6 million lbs of trash a year. Overwhelmed by waste and strapped for cash, Mr. Allen knew change was needed.

The bakery began reclaiming its dusting flour, for example, saving more than 200 lbs of flour a day. It also started a recycling program that redirected nearly 5,000 lbs  of trash a month headed to landfill, partnered with a composter that helped it compost more than 30,000 lbs a month, and added checkpoints throughout the baking process to improve quality and eliminate remake.

As a result, Companion Baking eliminated more than one million lbs of trash a year. Mr. Allen added that the impact on the bakery’s culture was just as important.

“The real icing on the cake is that we love what we do again,” he said. “We’re no longer going home tired and dejected.”  

Mr. Allen was rewarded for his efforts with the “Sustainability Hero” award at the 2021 TipTree World Bread Awards. The bakery isn’t done, however, and plans to send zero trash to landfill by 2025.