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The Journal Gazette

  • Radalia

Sunday, July 15, 2018 1:00 am

Bread gaining vegetables

Aunt Millie's new brands appeal to diet-conscious

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

At a glance

Aunt Millie's Bakeries is introducing two new lines of bread this fall.

These five vegetable breads will be sold under the Daily Kneads brand:

• Spinach and leek

• Carrot and pumpkin

• Tomato and basil

• Red pepper

• Sweet beet

These four sprouted grain breads will be sold under the Love. Sprout. Live. brand:

• Wheat Your Heart Out – with 100 percent whole wheat

• Lucky No. 7 – with wheat, rice, barley, oats, rye, millet and flaxseed

• Raisin Salutations – with cinnamon, honey and raisins

• Soulful Seeds – with flaxseed, sunflower kernels, quinoa, amaranth, millet, sesame seeds

Source: Aunt Millie's Bakeries

Mac and cheese. Chicken nuggets. Hot dogs. Ice cream. The foods that tempt most toddlers are far from nutritious.

As a result, some parents struggle to ensure their little ones are eating balanced diets.

Aunt Millie's Bakeries recently struck a partnership that might make veggies more tempting to developing taste buds.

The local company's new lines of vegetable breads and sprouted grain breads boost the nutrition contained in every slice. Officials also expect adults who closely monitor their own diets will embrace the products, which will hit store shelves in early September.

Expanding product offerings is one way Aunt Millie's officials are strengthening the company, said Rod Radalia, a vice president. The local food manufacturer closed its downtown bakery in early April, saying it needed to reduce production capacity to bring it in line with customer demand.

The Fort Wayne location was targeted because the other six bakeries operated by Aunt Millie's have easier highway access, which reduces the time and fuel needed to deliver products throughout Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, officials said.

The company's headquarters, where about 120 people work, remains downtown. 

Getting healthy

Consumers' buying habits are changing, Radalia said. With so much talk about white bread's empty calories, shoppers are increasingly switching to whole grains.

Phil Lempert, a food trends expert and author of Supermarket Guru, has written about consumers' desire to get more from the food they consume. They are basically multitasking their efforts to meet nutritional requirements.

Think of smoothies boosted with protein powder or an electrolyte mix. Vitamin D-fortified milk and iodized salt are examples that have long been staples in the American diet.

Like whole grain, vegetable breads are more nutritious, said Radalia, who oversees research and development for Aunt Millie's.

So when small Minnesota bakery Daily Kneads Bread approached Aunt Millie's about making and distributing a new bread line, Aunt Millie's was on board.

The recipes created by Michael Itskovich, Daily Kneads co-founder, rely on whole grain, natural, non-GMO ingredients. Two slices of each vegetable bread meet the Food and Drug Administration's guidelines for a full serving of vegetables.

Each loaf contains six to nine cups of vegetables.

For the line of sprouted grain breads, which will be sold under the Love. Sprout. Live. brand,  Aunt Millie's developed the recipes in house. The company is working with a milliner that sprouts grain from seeds into small plants, dries them and grinds them into flour.

The resulting loaves, which will be sold frozen, include the same nutritional qualities found in loaves made from the more common method of making a mash from sprouted grains mixed with water. But, Radalia said, the texture is closer to that of regular bread.

Texture and taste are important. Even though consumers want more nutrition from their breads, they won't keep buying loaves that don't taste good.

Changing tastes

Some people have their minds made up about whether they will like new bread varieties before even trying them, Radalia said.

Even so, those who take a bite are often surprised, saying it's not what they expected, he added. Some are surprised that vegetable and sprouted grain varieties still taste like bread.

Not everyone will like the products, however. And even those who do won't necessarily use them in every situation, Radalia acknowledged.

“This is not going to be your bread for your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” he said. “This is going to be something different.”

And different doesn't mean bad.

“We like variety in our lives,” he said. “A number of people are going to be surprised how fun it is.”

Radalia, who doesn't know of similar products now on the market, sees tremendous possibilities for combinations of flavored breads matched with fillings.

When sampling the products last fall, he put turkey and stuffing between slices of spinach bread.

“They were awesome,” he said. “This is going to make for some unique sandwiches.”

Aunt Millie's knows its breads ... and buns, bagels and English muffins. The company, which has been family-owned since 1901, sells various whole-grain, oatmeal, potato, rye, cinnamon-raisin, Texas toast and Italian breads.

The baker debuted the vegetable breads in May at the National Restaurant Association's annual show in Chicago, where they were well-received by owners of large and small restaurants.

Radalia estimated that 20 percent to 25 percent of the company's sales are to restaurants. The remainder is to grocery stores. 

The Fort Wayne company introduced the sprouted grain breads in late June at a food show in New Orleans, where they also received a positive response.

The company's sales team is talking to grocery store chains about devoting some of their limited shelf space to the expanded line. So far, health food stores have shown more interest than other groceries, Radalia said.

He hopes consumers give the new products a try.

“I think they're going to be pleasantly surprised,” he said.