Paraoa Bakehouse/Purebread (BioGro No. 611)
In 1996 Robert Glensor was the man behind his 150sqm, one-man bakery. Paraoa Bakehouse in Paraparaumu (Kapiti) now employs 12 others in a 450sqm facility and produces an extensive range of certified-organic breads, buns, pizza bases, breadcrumbs, cereals and spreads with many being gluten-free too. His first loaf was Big Daddy Oats weighing in at 1kg so big enough to feed the whole family. Purebread’s brand has since become famous for its thoughtfully named loaves of bread including Moral Fibre, Young Buck and Soul Spelt. Purebread’s range now boasts about 20 certified-organic and/or gluten free products which are available online and at organic stores & supermarkets throughout New Zealand. Paraoa Bakehouse won the OANZ Organic Enterprise Award in 2010 and the National Sustainable Business of the Year in 2008.
We’ve been organic since day one by using organic ingredients and became certified organic by BioGro in the following year.
We were the first bakery to meet BioGro’s organic standards. I wanted to prove our authenticity, BioGro’s logo guarantees that. It’s real, it’s true.
Before being certified, I strongly felt that we were meeting the organic standard although the knowledge we gained from going through the certification process meant that we changed a couple of things to ensure our products are made with at least 95% organic ingredients (this is one of BioGro’s standards).
I remember when I was first taken by organics. I worked on various farms as a teenager and didn’t have TV at home. One day I walked in on an episode of Country Calendar (on someone else’s TV) which featured a biodynamic/organic farm. I was sceptical at first thinking ‘this farmer is a little bit crazy, filling a cow horn with dung and burying it in the corner of his paddock somewhere’. It was enough though to inspire me to visit his (John Pearce's) farm in Kaipara Harbour. I thought that the animals looked really healthy, the grass looked really good and everything was done without any chemicals. It was a real inspiration.
While I hadn’t run my own commercial farm I have dabbled in biodynamics on various small holdings ever since. So when I decided to set up the bakery, being organic was a fundamental part of it. I wanted to support organic agriculture and play a part in the organic industry. Sustainability is very important but most important is supporting organic farmers - the people who look after our land, that which grows our food, which feeds our most important asset: ourselves and our children.
We chose BioGro because we wanted to align ourselves with New Zealand’s premium organic certifier. It all comes back to authenticity, integrity – being certified organic by BioGro proves our support of organic farming practises.
Being sustainable - animal friendly, people friendly - is certainly an essential part of that.
BioGro requires that we renew our certification annually. This involves an audit by a BioGro auditor which takes about half a day onsite. It’s pretty painless if we’ve kept up with our paperwork throughout the year. More than anything it’s a good catch up with our auditor and a thorough review of everything we do organically.
One of our initial challenges was sourcing organic ingredients of a consistent and superior quality. We starting using NZ organic flour because we wanted to support local suppliers but then we ordered a new batch and it wasn’t as good compared to the first batch – it was a different beast. The very best of NZ ingredients like flour is OK but Australia has better volumes, testing facilities, protein levels etc.
One of our ongoing challenges is getting the mainstream market to understand our value, and not just poking us into a corner with the so-called ‘weirdoes’. We’ve got to keep up on top of our website and blog, keep up with Facebook etc. It’s a big job to always be getting our story out there.
Surprisingly, since we started, supermarkets have been really open minded about our products (and me - this crazy man with organic bread!). Having sold our range in supermarkets for years now is a real advantage because we have a longstanding relationship with them. Turning up with a new product now is not a problem - we can say it’s organic and often it’s gluten free too so they listen to us even more. If I was a new guy turning up tomorrow (to supermarkets) for the first time I think it would be much harder.
We’ve got to keep walking the talk.
We have succeeded in getting a family of products into compostable packaging. Our Gluten Free Heat & Eat Flatties sprt the initiative and are the first on the chilled food market – another step to support our sustainable principles. We want to have an iconic brand that’s associated with supporting healthy and organic food choices. Like I said, it’s about supporting the people who look after our land, who grow the food which feeds us and our children.
With that, our Purebread Organic Education Programme donates organic vegetable seeds to schools, kindies and playcentres to support their wonderful growing programmes they have. We have now given over 40,000 personal sachets so potentially over a million and a half vegetable plants. The children seem to have a very natural affinity to soil and growing and even very happy to eat what they grow so it is very pleasing on many levels to support this.
We now have an extensive free home delivery service from our ONLINE shop as we know we can look after people much better personally than supermarkets can.