BioGro No. 611

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In 1996, Robert Glensor began a 150-square-metre, one-man bakery. Paraoa Bakehouse in Paraparaumu, on the Kapiti Coast, now employs 10 others in a 450-square-metre facility and produces an extensive range of Purebread certified organic breads, buns, pizza bases, breadcrumbs, cereals and spreads. Many Purebread products are gluten-free too.

Robert’s first loaf was Big Daddy Oats, weighing in at 1kg – big enough to feed the whole family. Purebread has since become famous for thoughtfully named loaves such as Moral Fibre, Young Buck and Soul Spelt. The bakery’s range now boasts about 30 certified organic and/or gluten-free products. They sell their products online and at organic shops and 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, 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.

Our organic products are made with at least 95% organic ingredients (this is one of BioGro’s standards), allowing for some non-organic content such as yeasts.

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 someone else watching an episode of Country Calendar, featuring a biodynamic/organic farm. I was sceptical at first, thinking, ‘This farmer is a 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. The animals looked really healthy, the grass looked really good and everything was done without any chemicals. It was a real inspiration.

While I haven’t run my own commercial farm, I have dabbled in biodynamics on various smallholdings 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.

The most important part of sustainability is supporting organic farmers – the people who look after our land, which grows our food, which feeds our most important assets: 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 and integrity. Our BioGro certification proves our commitment to supporting organic farming practices.

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.

In my experience, not many people recognise conventional bread products as a danger; most choose to believe the pretty pictures on trucks and healthy claims made on packs. Of course, the biggest benefit of organic bread is what is not in the product. Most of the health risk from conventional bread products comes from pesticide residues and harmful additives; these don’t have to be mentioned in nutritional analysis or ingredient lists but are very real, and often present in significant amounts. The last NZ Total Diet Survey revealed that 87% of wheat samples contained the residues of at least 23 pesticides!

The supermarket world is much more difficult these days for our niche products, where we seem to get buried under the huge volume products, including those $1 loaves readily available at most stores. Volume sales makes the most money for supermarkets, so we don’t work so well for them.

One of our ongoing challenges is getting the mainstream market to understand our value. We’ve got to keep on top of our website and blog, Facebook, etc. It’s a big job to always be getting our story out there.

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. This step in deepening our sustainable principles is a work in progress. We want to have an iconic brand that’s associated with supporting healthy choices.

Our Purebread Organic Education Programme donates organic vegetable seeds to schools, kindies and playcentres to support their wonderful gardening programmes. We have now given over 80,000 personal sachets – so potentially over three million vegetable plants. The children seem to have a natural affinity for soil and growing and are very happy to eat what they grow; it is satisfying 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. Our direct sales are growing. People can get fresh bread overnight, freight-free; we bake it one day and dispatch it the next day.