A common practice for wholesale bread bakers that supply retail grocers is called guaranteed sale, when the bread baker agrees to take back any unsold bread the day after it’s delivered to the store and issue credits to the retailer for the unsold bread.
Until recently, Semifreddi’s, a leading producer of artisan bread and rolls for wholesale clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, had few options for what to do with the leftover bread from its grocery store clients. But with the implementation of the company’s “green” initiative in 2009, all that has changed.
“Now we bring back the day-old bread, which goes to the composter. Then that is used to make food pellets for chickens and cows,” says Tom Frainier, co-owner of Semifreddi’s. “It just makes you feel good that you’re not wasting the bread.”
Semifreddi’s operates a wholesale baking plant in Alameda and two retail bakery shops – one in Kensington, CA, and one in Berkeley, CA. When the company moved to its 36,000-square-foot Alameda bakery in 2009, it took full advantage of the opportunity to instill “green” thinking into every decision – from recycling to lighting.
John Tredgold, who oversees bakery operations for Semifreddi’s, and Michel Suas at T.M.B Baking set out to design a new kind of bakery – a bakery that included natural light for energy savings and employee wellbeing, fresh air pumped into the bakery without unnecessary heating and cooling, and recycling made easy and simple. “We want to do everything we can to have as little impact as possible on the environment,” Frainier adds. “We re-use almost everything.”
He points out that their wholesale production plant, where they bake more than 200,000 breads, rolls and pastries a week, has reduced waste to the point they fill one garbage dumpster per week – and that’s all. A typical American household can produce almost that much waste.
In addition, the new Alameda bakery features a host of sustainability-driven features:
· 20 domed skylights and 44 solar light tubes to harvest sunlight with 98% reflectivity without heat transfer. This allows for lighting systems energy savings of 100% for most of the day.
· Programmable lighting system for non-daylight work hours. HIF with a color temperature of 5000 K, close to natural daylight.
· Office and warehouse lighting with motion detector sensors
· Smart delivery routes—75% of sales are within a 30-mile radius of the Alameda bakery
· Minimal packaging featuring recycled paper stocks and soy inks
· 95% of generated waste is recycled
· Green composting program
· Compostable plant based flatware for break room
“We have 120 people working here, and we try to create an environment that is pleasant for everyone to work,” Frainier says.
Co-owners Frainier and Michael Rose were committed to having their company forge ahead with sustainability-by-design. In addition to its green operations, Semifreddi’s helps sustain the surrounding communities. For the past 26 years, the bakery has donated bread and pastries to thousands of schools and non-profits in and around the greater Bay Area.
The Alameda bakery has no freezers because they don’t work with frozen product. They don’t even refrigerate their doughs beyond the 50 F fermentation room where they hold sourdough and sponges for preferments.
“We’re committed to being fresh,” Frainier says. “The majority of our customers are within 30 miles. The longest distance we go is 60 miles to San Jose.”
In addition to running two retail bakeries, Semifreddi’s delivers bread, rolls and pastries to grocery stores, restaurants, delis and cafés. About 93% of total sales go to wholesale clients. Frainier says business has never been better. “In a recession, we do well because people stay at home.”
In addition to grass-roots marketing, the bakery business is focused on constant evaluation and improvement. Every supervisor has to write a summary report after each shift, keeping the focus on the quality of the product.
‘We’ve been focused on wholesale bread baking for 26 years,” Frainier says. “We’re like the offensive linemen of the bakery business. We just grind it out everyday.”