This week’s Ethical Business Spotlight features Ed and Natasha Tatton, Co-Founders of BReD! Discover how these two animal rights advocates create vegan, sustainably-made sourdough breads, baked goods, and espresso coffee drinks in the picturesque mountains of Whistler, British Columbia!
You founded your 100% plant-based organic sourdough bread shop with your husband Ed. What inspired you to create BReD and what is your mission?
Opening a bakery was a gradual realisation. Ed had often made sourdough bread in restaurants over the years so he implemented a sourdough program at the restaurant he was working at in Whistler. They had been buying in all their bread from another bakery at the time and this was an opportunity for the bistro to save money and produce a better quality loaf. Ed would experiment with new recipes at home and at work. Eventually, Ed asked his employer if he could rent the kitchen for a couple days a week to make and bake bread for family and friends.
Natasha was a passionate animal rights advocate who had been teaching English for 15 years while also venturing into various food and beverage roles, nurturing her desire to establish a vegan eatery to provide more compassionate food choices for locals and tourists alike. Once the seed was planted that Ed should open a bread shop, Natasha decided to team up with her husband and found the BC Sea to Sky corridor’s first 100% plant-based bakery café.
Our mission to bake healthy naturally-leavened sourdough, wholegrain and plant-based products from scratch and baked fresh daily, which look and taste great, and make every eating experience more satisfying. We want people to prefer our offerings over animal-based products because our objective is to make veganism an easily-adopted and widely-recognised approach to reducing animal suffering and environmental damage.
We strive to create an atmosphere where we can attract, retain and motivate the brightest and most talented people in the industry; where employees can learn, grow, and innovate, while holding true to the roots of traditional baking.
From hearty loaves of sourdough, to English flapjacks, cashew cheeze flatbreads, and hot chocolate with home-made coconut whip, BReD offers unique menu items that are sure to please vegans and non-vegans alike. What are your 3 favorite menu items and why?
Hot cross buns are so nostalgic of growing up and you can be quite creative with them. Last Easter, Ed made some with carrot in them, topped with an orange butter, and they were phenomenal! We tried selling them past Easter as they were so popular, but people’s buying habits change with the seasons so we all have to wait till next year.
The tartine which is Natasha’s favourite has got to be the spinach + sunflower pesto one topped with roasted tomatoes. The crust is flaky like a croissant, and makes the most delicious lunch.
Our best selling loaf is the country sourdough. It’s a blend of organic wheat, rye and spelt flours, naturally leavened and people love it as it goes with anything – sweet or savoury. You just can’t go wrong with this loaf – it’s a crowd pleaser.
What has been the biggest challenge and biggest reward while working in the sourdough bread game?
In the Whistler winter, it gets down to -20°C in the village, which is especially challenging for sourdough because when the bakery doors are opening all day, the air is coming in and out. It’s quite a challenge to keep it consistent. We invested in a heating and cooling system, which generally keeps the shop at a constant temperature of around 22°C. In the summer, we’ll have extra air conditioning on as well, to try and keep it a little cooler.
Being in the mountains, it’s so dry during the winter and then gets so hot and humid through the summer. It really keeps Ed and the team on our toes that we have to adjust – it’s not the same recipe we use day in, day out – sometimes less water, sometimes more. We’ll use a slightly warmer water with the dough or slightly cooler water, to moderate how long the bread is fermented for. Sometimes you just have to wait, or you have to move quickly. Maybe you can go for a walk in the afternoon or maybe you get no lunch break and just keep working the whole day.
The reward is hearing people say “This is the best bread I’ve ever eaten!” or “I didn’t know I could eat bread until I ate your bread. This is the only bread I can eat!”
Nestled at the base of Whistler mountain, a world premier ski resort, we get to enjoy natural beauty every day. The views outside the bread shop’s windows remind us how precious our planet is, and the privileges of clean air, water and fertile soils are not to be taken for granted. It is imperative that we preserve all we can for future generations to come.
Using organic locally-sourced grains encourages regenerative farming practices and we refrain from using glyphosate-sprayed monocultures which pillage the land. Most supermarket products travel approximately 2000km to reach the shelf from where they are made. Our grain travels around 10% of that distance to reach our facility and our local customers tend to live within a 7km radius. This reduces our carbon footprint substantially.
Using plant-based ingredients means we are cutting out the environmental damage created by animal agriculture. 40% of agricultural emissions in Canada come directly from methane, with 90% from cattle and sheep as a result of feed digestion (according to http://www.agr.gc.ca ).
Plastic is a global problem and we do not want to contribute to it so our packaging is compostable. We believe that our local customers have the same environmental values and respect for the land as we do, and ultimately want to support businesses who contribute to a better world.
Even with compostable packaging, there is still the environmental cost of deforestation, transportation and production, and we spent our first year in business encouraging guests in dine-in when possible, and rewarded those who brought their own reusable cups with a discount.
Covid-19 gave us time to reflect on our sustainability impact, as well as a new challenge of heightened health and safety measures which favour single-use disposable items.
How do you find balance between profitability, quality, and sustainability? What are some of BReD’s practices and policies to work towards a sustainable future?
We looked at our reusable discount metrics and found that less than 10% of customers were bringing their own cups anyway, and came up with a more impactful way to support both environmental and social sustainability.
Partnering with Trees for the Future, we now plant a tree for every coffee served. This way, we offset our carbon and environmental damage of compostable containers while lifting impoverished African farmers up (many of whom are women) funding a programme which gives these sub-Saharan families seedlings, tools and guidance to regenerate their degraded land and create forest gardens for food, shelter, firewood and an income.
Ultimately, the problem of world poverty has to be addressed before we can expect everyone to be on board with creating a more sustainable future for life on the planet. Therefore, we use a Vancouver-based coffee roaster who buys directly from farmers in developing countries.
Supporting local suppliers is more sustainable environmentally but also keeps the local economy going. Many people are looking to buy local more now, and the government has launched many campaigns encouraging this. If you have a good product of consistent quality, people will come back for it and won’t mind parting with their hard earned cash to get it.
Many bakeries and cafes factor in 30% food wastage into their costs but we want to avoid any food waste by closely monitoring and controlling numbers to ensure all baked goods are consumed and not thrown out, even if it means offering an end-of-day deal or donating products occasionally.
What’s next for BReD?
It’s difficult year to make plans, but actually despite Covid-19 and a shift in consumer habits, we have found that overall our daily sales have improved since last year. This has given us the confidence to open for more days, and hire more staff to introduce new product lines and up the quantities of what we can currently produce.
We have strengthened our employee benefit program, so they will be even better supported from now on in terms of medical coverage and paid sick days, which of course, is a concern for many people during this pandemic.
We are also launching a fundraiser doggie treat with all profits donated to local animal sanctuaries who have not been able to host tours and events due to Covid-19, so need financial support more than ever.
One day, we would love to open another location in Vancouver, but still have more potential to reach in our Whistler store first.
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