Kirsten Unger, co-founder of Bakeworks, talks about adding unusual ingredients - bags of cricket flour - to her bread recipes and pushing food boundaries.
What does your business do?
Bakeworks produces a range of gluten-free products: breads, pizza bases and wraps, and sell through supermarkets and health food stores. We're based in Henderson, West Auckland, have a dedicated giant gluten-free kitchen and it's all wholesale so we produce freshly-baked bread for supermarkets and retail outlets.
Overall between our Home St and our Bakeworks brands, we have about 14 products and they sell from $6 through to $12.
What was the motivation for starting it?
We started back in 2002 - 17 years ago, and the reason we did it was because there was a lack of gluten-free products on the market so we wanted something that was exciting and different. There weren't many options back then so we thought we could really make a difference.
What's been the biggest change in the 17-years of business?
In terms of business, it's fairly standard, we are a manufacturer who bakes bread, that's our everyday function, but change over the years has really been that awareness on food allergies and what people are eating.
While we do the allergy side of things we're also focusing hugely on health and nutrition, and maximising bread so that people are not eating empty carbs and actually getting a whole lot of goodness with every slice.
How and where is your bread made?
Our development comes from Dave Harris, he is really the genius behind it. He's very creative and really thinks outside the box. For example, the cricket and turmeric paleo bread, that was something where he really wanted to maximise the idea of protein with the crickets but also the health benefits with the turmeric.
You've added cricket bread to your range - why and where did the idea to use cricket as an ingredient come from?
It is an ingredient, and Dave is always researching overseas markets and trends and really saw an opportunity to introduce something to the New Zealand market that was lairy and very different for a lot of people, and thought he'd incorporate it into our bread. It's a strong seller and when we launched it we didn't know which way it would go. We thought it could be an absolute disaster or it could be really good.
It is still new to the market, it's only been around for about seven months, but it's doing really well - once people get their heads around it they love it. The rest of the range is quite safe so cricket bread was about testing the market and finding out where consumers are sitting, and if it failed it didn't matter. It was about pushing those boundaries in food.
What was the initial reaction when you introduced cricket bread?
Some people are like 'no, nope, not eating a cricket', others are cool about it. The shock factor and expressions; if we could photograph that it would be amazing.
How much potential is there is for the cricket protein market?
The crickets we use are imported from Canada but we're looking at a local alternative with Kiwi farmers setting up in the South Island, who are actually going to be growing crickets for New Zealand and the overseas market. In terms of growth internationally, it is going to be part of the future diet.
In five years we'll see crickets in mainstream products here in New Zealand. We've got some interesting things coming up and cricket is definitely going to feature.
In five years we'll see crickets in mainstream products here in New Zealand.
What are your long term plans?
Launching Home St mid-last year was a massive achievement, it's different from Bakeworks. Bakeworks is everyday gluten free bread, Home St is all about Dave and I on our journey over the past 17 years, and everything we believe in has gone into this range - it's not just about having bread, it's about something to hold your filling and having a slice that you know is really good for you.
We were getting a bit ho-hum about what we were doing but this has completely energised our passion for our business. In terms of the future, Home St is our future. We will continue to develop unique bread products.
What's your advice to others thinking about starting their own business?
Make a business plan, strategise and find a market. It's great developing something but if you haven't got a market or somewhere for it to go it is pointless.