Alpine Valley Bread Company
For Alpine Valley Bread Company in Mesa, Arizona, more is less. Since forming as a small 2,000-square-foot bakery in 1997, founder Todd Wood and his family have upheld the belief that organic bread can be flavorful, nutritious and simple by nature. While customers will find Alpine Valley’s array of natural products on store shelves in all 50 states, they won’t find mile-long labels cluttered with mystery ingredients. The company says “no” to a lot of ingredients that are unnecessary to make quality whole-grain bread — no to added fat, oils, cholesterol, processed sugars, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.
“Since we opened our once small family bakery, we’ve seen a paradigm shift in consumer buying,” explains Todd Wood, CEO of Alpine Valley. “People are now willing to spend a little more for a high-quality, organic product because they know it offers more value in health and nutrition. American families are eating healthier, so the major grocery chains and retailers have finally relented because people are clamoring for natural and organic products.”
Sharing a family passion
This demand has facilitated the growth of Alpine Valley’s burgeoning wholesome bread business, which started simply as Todd and his family’s passion for healthy food to fuel their active lifestyle. “My wife and I are very athletic and outdoorsy people and we’re also very health conscious,” says Todd. “Whole grains were an important part of our diet then and still are today.”
“We wanted to start our own family business to promote good health and living, but we also wanted to provide an environment where our children could work and learn to be responsible, good citizens,” continues Todd.
For the first few years, Todd rolled up his sleeves and did most of the baking himself. “I would come in at midnight and begin mixing and kneading the dough and baking it off,” he recounts. “Meanwhile, my wife was the counter/cashier person and our girls would help after school and on the weekends.”
Whole grains and wholesome ingredients have always been central to Alpine Valley’s recipes. “Since the beginning, we focused on raw ingredients — honey, oats, whole grain wheat flour and more — and it wasn’t long before national companies started contacting us, asking to put our bread products in their stores. The first big stores that reached out to us were Costco and Kroger.”
Organic certification, new consumer preference open doors
Starting with these national names within its local footprint in Arizona, Alpine Valley took business to the next level in 2007 when the company became officially organic certified. “In 2007, we decided to take our whole-grain bread and launch an organic-certified line,” says Todd.
Then the phones started to ring off the hook. “Opportunities opened up with Whole Foods, Sprouts Farmers Market, Safeway and Albertson and other grocery chains and farmers markets,” recalls Todd.
Todd says the quality of Alpine Valley’s all-natural, organic product was certainly a factor in this rapid expansion, but the timing was also on point. “Since 2007 — even through the recession — consumers have pushed for more natural and organic foods,” he says. “This is one reason why companies such as Whole Foods and Sprouts Farmers Market continued to grow through 2008 and on.”
Todd says the demographic driving demand is millennials. “Year over year, organic bread sales have increased by 35 to 40 percent,” he reveals. “Consumers are changing where they spend their money — especially millennials, who are more environmentally conscious. They might not have as much money as the baby boomers, but they’re willing to spend a little bit more on organic, good quality food because they see the value in it.”
Riding the coattails of this market shift and by producing consistent, wholesome products, Alpine Valley has grown by leaps and bounds. “Today we have two facilities in Arizona and close to 90,000 square feet of production space,” notes Todd. “Alpine Valley has close to 300 employees and we distribute in all 50 states as well as Mexico and Japan.”
Alpine Valley is able to cover a large distribution range due to its fresh-frozen program. “The great thing about our bread is it freezes and unthaws very well,” says Todd. “We do in-house taste tests with our employees and they cannot tell the difference between a recently thawed loaf and one that was baked just yesterday.”
Making good for you taste great
Not only does Alpine Valley’s bread freeze and unthaw like it was freshly baked, Todd assures it also tastes better than most of its counterparts. “There’s this misconception that organic bread tastes like cardboard,” he says. “We make a product that is moist, dense and flavorful, sweetened with organic honey — it’s everything you want and expect in bread. In fact, some people say it tastes better than regular bread. Our goal is to give customers a different experience in organic bread.”
Alpine Valley offers a whole array of healthy, flavorful options in organic bread: honey whole wheat; sprouted honey wheat with flaxseed; multigrain omega-3 and honey oat bran; nine-grain and whole wheat breakfast breads such as apple cinnamon and raisin cinnamon. Alpine Valley even offers organic Hawaiian rolls, dinner rolls, hamburger and hot dog buns.
“We just released new organic honey chia seed bread,” shares Todd. “Another popular new item is the Super Grains Bread, including 21 whole grains and seeds including sprouted wheat berries, pumpkin seeds, teff, kamut, chia seeds, spelt, millet, quinoa and more. Each slice is full of quality protein, antioxidants and vitamins and fully loaded with multiple whole grains.”
Alpine Valley is on track for further expansion. “Our sales have continued to grow exponentially,” says Todd. And the company has set big goals to match. “We’re looking at locations to build a new facility on the East Coast to increase production and distribution,” continues Todd. “We’re already in most major retailers, but our goal is to be in every major grocery store, club and food-store channel by 2016.”
As the market for organic bread continues to grow, Alpine Valley Bread Company is baking up big-batch business with the notion that less is more — just quality, wholesome ingredients and a passion for furthering health and wellness.