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Conscious Capitalism
BakeMag.com, Sept. 24, 2013
by John Unrein

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Does your bakery business make a difference within your community? Do you adhere to a clearly defined mission statement that is readily available to your staff and to your customers?

Increasingly, managers and business owners are answering such tough questions with a renewed commitment to social responsibility and consumer education about the foods they produce.

One such example is John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, who delivered the keynote address at the Winter Fancy Food Show in a session presented by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade and Social Venture Network. Author of a new book, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, Mackey shared his insights on the growth of capitalism and the struggle to present a positive image to today’s society.

“People have evolved, and yet business has not evolved,” Mackey says. “If we’re going to be successful as businesspeople in the future, we’re going to have to exemplify a more conscious way of being and a more conscious way of representing organizations.”

The specialty food retail leader delved into the key facets of a successful conscious business, such as the importance of identifying a business’ higher purpose. “You might ask yourself what is the higher purpose of your particular business: What difference is it making in the world?”

Mackey also described a need for a shift in leadership dynamics. “I’m a great believer that, in this conscious capitalism and world that we’re trying to create, we’ve got to have a different kind of leader,” he says. “One who is purpose-driven, one who’s authentic, one who’s caring, one who’s more spiritually aware and involved.”

Communicating the story

One example of a retail bakery that is deepening its involvement in understanding and communicating the story behind the bakery products it sells is Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, MI.

Tucked among the traditionally baked breads, pastries and cakes that have been Zingerman’s Bakehouse staples for 20 years, customers now find such seemingly exotic foods as Flodni, Rigó Jancsi, and Pogácsa.

Amy Emberling and Frank Carollo, the managing partners of Zingerman’s Bakehouse, recently began the exploration of Hungarian foods. Looking for new avenues to expand their baking horizons, they made a plan to investigate the baking traditions of countries that might not be familiar to an American audience. “In choosing a baking tradition, we needed a place with a long, deep history of really great food, but one that maybe doesn’t get the credit it deserves,” Emberling says. “Hungary definitely fit that bill.”

After an extensive research trip to Hungary in the fall of 2011, Emberling, Carollo and co-founder of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, Ari Weinzweig, were convinced that their choice to learn about Hungarian foods was wise.

What followed were a series of trips over the next year, the most recent being to Transylvania in October 2012. After each trip, they delved into history and cookbooks and drew upon what they’d learned on their travels in order to recreate for Zingerman’s guests the amazing foods they found across Hungary.

Today, as many as 15 traditional Hungarian foods might grace the Bakehouse shelves on any given day, from traditional soups to breads flavored with paprika, to retés (strudels) and many desserts.

As for where they’ll go from here, Emberling and Carollo intend to focus on particular areas of Hungarian cuisine like Jewish-Hungarian food, the cuisine of the Roma, home cooking, and traditional Hungarian recipes transformed by modern chefs.

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