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Guilds could save artisanal bakers

By Kacey Culliney+

11-Dec-2013

'We're better as a whole than separately,' says co-owner of milling firm within the guild
'We're better as a whole than separately,' says co-owner of milling firm within the guild

The head of a start-up milling and bakery guild in Nebraska thinks forming associations with other local enterprises could be a lifeline for business.

An artisanal bakery, a milling firm, a bed & breakfast cook and a local eatery have joined forces to establish a guild in a bid to promote and boost bakery business beyond the state of Nebraska. The White Thumb Bakers Guild – made up of Wauneta Roller Mills, Sehnert’s Bakery, Prairie Harvest and HomeSpunhas – has been operating since mid-November selling bread, cakes, granola and bars online.

Speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com, the co-owner of Wauneta Roller Mills and head of the guild project Ashley Einspahr, said the partnership has humanized company’s involved.

“We’re better as a whole than separately. Consumers like to know that the baker knows the miller and the miller knows the farmer… People like to know where their food comes from, that it’s made here and touched by real hands – not just processed and shoved in a bag somewhere,” she said.

There is a renewed appreciation for artisanal bakeries as consumers strive to eat better, she added.

From small bakeries to grocery stores and back to artisanal

However, there is still a big trend to purchase baked goods from grocery stores, rather than local bakeries, Einspahr said. “It’s easier and less time-consuming to go to the grocery store.”

She said that it's a shame that states across the US have seen many small bakeries close as a result.

But she said that forming a guild and shifting business online could be a lifeline for bakeries in trouble.

“For any business in a small community, it’s nice to go beyond that for business but it’s hard to realize that sometimes,” she said.

Choosing to move online in a partnership provides a lot of potential as it reaches more and better-targeted consumers, and pricing can be higher, she explained.

Online bakeries: The pros and cons

However, running an online bakery business doesn’t come without challenges, Einspahr said. “When talking through the whole idea, the biggest obstacle was getting the baked products to people fresh – ensuring the products are not stale.”

A decision was made to pack and ship products on Mondays, to ensure speedy delivery, she said, but this frequency may increase as volumes pick up.

BakeryandSnacks.com previously spoke to the vice president of Busken Bakery – another US bakery that has moved online to boost business – about some of the challenges involved.

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