We rank vendors based on rigorous testing and research, but also take into account your feedback and our commercial agreements with providers. This page contains affiliate links.Advertising DisclosureThis is a user-oriented comparison website, and we need to cover hosting and content costs, as well as make a profit. The costs are covered from referral fees from the vendors we feature. Affiliate link compensation does not affect reviews but might affect listicle pages. On these pages, vendors are ranked based on the reviewer’s examination of the service but also taking into account feedback from users and our commercial agreements with service providers. This website tries to cover important meal, coffee and pet food delivery services but we can’t cover all of the solutions that are out there. Information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.
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Author Sarah Kirton
Sarah Kirton Writer
Updated on Jun 6th, 2024
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Wildgrain 2024: It’s All in the Fermentation

DeliveryRank has the opportunity to chat with Ismail Salhi and Johanna Hartzheim, co-founders of Wildgrain. Motivated by a desire to find clean, high-quality carbs for their family, they spent months developing homemade recipes with clean ingredients and artisanal processes. Recognizing a broader need for nutritious, artisanal carbs, they launched Wildgrain, a delivery service that partners with small bakers and pasta makers nationwide. Their mission is to keep the tradition of artisanal and nutritious food alive in today’s food system.

Ismail, how does the bake-from-frozen process work, and what inspired you to create a product that goes from freezer to table in 25 minutes or less?

In 2019, my wife, who is a baker, started really getting into the sourdough process. She got a mentor who gave her her first starter, and she began baking her own sourdough bread. It took a while to make a good loaf—her early attempts were flat and not very good—but she kept at it, and eventually, her bread became excellent.

She realized that making one loaf or making ten took about the same amount of time since it was just a matter of proportions. So, she started making more loaves. However, some of them would go stale before we could eat them all. I suggested freezing them, but when we froze fully baked loaves, they didn’t refresh well—the inside stayed frozen, and it wasn't a good experience.

If you know about sourdough baking, part of the process at home involves baking the bread in a Dutch oven or a closed container for a while, then removing the lid to let it brown for the last 10 minutes. I had the idea of freezing the bread before removing the lid—this is called par-baking. The bread reaches its structure but doesn’t brown yet. We let it cool down, froze it, and then finished baking it for the last 20 minutes whenever we needed it. The result was exactly like a freshly baked loaf.

This discovery allowed us to keep those extra loaves my wife was baking, freeze them, and refresh them whenever needed. It also meant we could give frozen loaves to friends and family. This was our first "a-ha" moment, realizing this could be a business because of its implications for how artisan bread is made and sold.

Typically, bakeries wake up very early to make bread and sell it fresh to grocery stores and farmers markets. They can't keep making and selling it throughout the day due to lower demand. Our method allowed these bakeries to produce bread, freeze it, store more inventory, and refresh it whenever needed.

We quickly saw that this could be a game-changer for home consumers. It removes the complexity of making sourdough bread, makes it ready in 20 minutes, and allows people to have warm, fresh bread at home with that wonderful bakery smell. This fresh, warm bread even outperformed bakery loaves, which are often cold by the time you buy them in the US. We talk about the "delicious window" for bread and baked goods, which is between the moment it comes out of the oven and about 20 minutes later when it's at its peak deliciousness.

What are the key health benefits of your sourdough products, and how does your long fermentation process contribute to these benefits?

Fermentation processes offer three major health benefits:

  1. Prebiotics and Probiotics: Wild yeast naturally contains prebiotics and probiotics, which are beneficial for gut health.

  2. Pre-digestion of Gluten: Unlike industrial yeast that ferments bread in about 20 minutes (like in Wonder Bread), our bread ferments for 25 hours. The quick fermentation process doesn't pre-digest the gluten, which is why many people feel bloated after eating regular white bread. In our bread, the bacteria and wild yeast start pre-digesting the gluten, making it easier for your belly to digest. This results in better digestion compared to industrial and fast-fermented bread.

  3. Lower Blood Sugar Spikes: The sugars in our bread are pre-digested by the bacteria, leading to fewer spikes in blood sugar levels. This is beneficial for people with diabetes and other heart conditions. Unlike regular white bread, which causes a spike in blood sugar, sourdough does not.

These are the key benefits people talk about when discussing sourdough fermentation. Fermentation, in general, whether for bread, kimchi, or any other product, is very good for your health because of the naturally existing probiotics and prebiotics. It reinforces gut health and makes your digestive system stronger.

How do your products maintain their quality and flavor during the freezing and baking process, and what feedback have you received from your customers regarding this?

In terms of quality and taste, our frozen bread surpasses any other method. When you buy a loaf from a grocery store or bakery in the USA, 90% of the time it's not warm. It may be fresh, but it's no longer warm and crispy. Reviving bread from frozen allows you to have a nice crispy crust and warm crumb, with butter melting perfectly on the bread. This results in much better quality.

Regarding health benefits, as mentioned earlier, our bread retains its health advantages due to the fermentation process and the lack of preservatives. The production method is similar to any other type of bread. The only difference is that we remove the loaf a bit earlier from the oven, let it cool, and then flash freeze it. This freezing process extends the shelf life of the product without requiring preservatives.

When working with bakeries, we often find that they add shelf life stabilizers for grocery store products. We advise them to remove these preservatives because they are unnecessary for our frozen loaves. This is another benefit that people appreciate about using our product—it extends shelf life without adding any undesirable ingredients.

How does your flexible delivery system work, and what steps have you taken to ensure it meets the needs of your customers?

To ensure timely delivery to your home, we built a robust infrastructure across 48 states. We collaborate with regional bakeries across the United States to produce our products and ship them to our distribution centers, which are large freezers. We keep these loaves and baked goods frozen until a customer places an order.

Once an order is placed, we pick the items from the freezer, pack them in an insulated box with liners and dry ice, and ship them using the fastest carrier available, whether it's a national carrier like UPS or a regional carrier. Our goal is to get the box to you as quickly as possible. In fact, 98% of our customers are within one or two days' transit from one of our distribution centers.

We maintain a low "thaw rate" in the industry, which is the number of boxes that arrive thawed due to delays or extreme heat. Coming from a technical background, I've built systems to minimize this issue. For instance, if the temperature in your area exceeds 110°F, we'll hold your order and notify you, waiting a couple of days until the temperature drops to ensure a safe delivery.

We adhere to strict food safety guidelines. If there's any risk of the product not being frozen upon delivery, we will refund the product or send a replacement. The expertise of Wildgrain lies in this frozen delivery network we've built over the last four years, ensuring both fast and safe delivery.

Why is supporting small bakeries and pasta makers important to Wildgrain, and how do you select your partners?

Our mission is to help artisanal processes survive in an industrial world where factories have largely overtaken small bakers, pasta makers, and pastry makers across the U.S. and even in Europe. When we discovered the potential of frozen products, combined with the educational power of the Internet, we realized we could help these artisan bakers scale their production.

Artisanal is better in all terms for customers, and they know it. Customers understand that an artisan bakery around the corner will provide better quality products than a large factory on the other side of the country. This mission drives us at the company—not only are we helping people eat better foods, but we are also supporting artisanal bakers, pasta makers, and pastry chefs nationwide.

Many believe the Internet has destroyed small businesses, with giants like Amazon and Walmart putting small stores out of business. Our goal is to show that the Internet can also save these small artisans. When you meet these artisans, you see they put their heart, soul, and savings into their businesses, working incredibly hard. It’s more exciting and fulfilling to work with them, seeing how handmade artisan bread is made compared to a fully automated factory.

Our artisanal bread-making process is very similar to how it was done hundreds or even thousands of years ago. The only automation is in the sophisticated ovens we use today. We use wild yeast, hand-shape the dough, bake it at high heat, and let it rest—just like in ancient times.

My wife is responsible for onboarding these artisans. She finds and talks to them, trains them on freezing and packaging for delivery, and ensures the right ingredients are used. The onboarding process, which includes learning how to palletize and prepare products for the freezer, can take between three and six months before the product is available on the Wildgrain website.

Can you explain the meal donation program and why it was important for you to incorporate this into your business model?

When we started Wildgrain, part of my thinking was always the same. I'm obsessed with how the Internet, despite its bad rap, can bring good things to people. I'm a child of the Internet—I met my wife through the Internet, found my job through the Internet, and sell products through the Internet. One of the good things the Internet can bring is a local impact on people doing important work for the community.

As we started looking for partners to keep that impact embedded in our business model, we talked to the Greater Boston Food Bank. It was during COVID, and they were in high demand, playing a key role in fighting hunger in the area. We found a good fit with them and started a program where we donate four meals every time someone becomes a member. This has been successful for all of us.

From the customer’s point of view, they understand that beyond just buying bread, pasta, and pastries, they’re also supporting small bakers and pasta makers across the country, and helping fight hunger in the U.S. For us, it works because we include it in our marketing and communications, letting customers know the impact they have. This resonates with them, and we've seen success with that. For the Greater Boston Food Bank, it provides sustained donations regularly from our members.

Regarding sourdough, it’s a great option for health. We don't add sugars to our loaves, except for some with honey. Sourdough is excellent for gut health. It’s important to balance it with a healthy diet. I don't just eat bread; sometimes, I make avocado toast, salads with croutons, or other balanced meals. Bread, pasta, and pastries make up about 54% of Americans' diet. Our goal is to help people eat better carbs through clean ingredients and slow fermentation processes, making a small impact on how people consume food.

If you would like to find out more about Wildgrain, please visit https://wildgrain.com/

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We rank vendors based on rigorous testing and research, but also take into account your feedback and our commercial agreements with providers. This page contains affiliate links.Advertising DisclosureThis is a user-oriented comparison website, and we need to cover hosting and content costs, as well as make a profit. The costs are covered from referral fees from the vendors we feature. Affiliate link compensation does not affect reviews but might affect listicle pages. On these pages, vendors are ranked based on the reviewer’s examination of the service but also taking into account feedback from users and our commercial agreements with service providers. This website tries to cover important meal, coffee and pet food delivery services but we can’t cover all of the solutions that are out there. Information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.
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