Red, White, and (Real) Blueberries

Today is Independence Day, a day to celebrate freedom. As a bakery owner, I am free to make choices about my business. Yesterday, as we were making our Red, White and Blueberry Bread, I started thinking about the dried blueberries we use. Dried blueberries are a fairly pricey ingredient; about $7 – $8 per pound. About a month ago, I received a phone call from a supplier, just in time for summer, offering me a free sample of something called Blueberry Flav-R-Bites. (I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to use that “registered trademark symbol” when I write those words, so let’s just call them blueberry flavored pellets.)

The salesman on the phone said that the blueberry flavored pellets were a fraction of the cost of real blueberries and that customers love the taste of the blueberry flavored bits more than actual real blueberries, and best of all, they are “all-natural.” Sounds too good to be true. I certainly can’t argue the price factor, and other bakery owners have confirmed that customers really do find the flavored pellets addictingly good. The ingredients are, not surprisingly, mostly sugar, along with flour, oil, starch, “natural flavor” and some small amount of actual dried blueberries.

OK, so they’re cheaper, customers love them, and they’re “all natural. Still, it just didn’t seem right to me. I believe in eating unprocessed, or minimally processed foods whenever possible. I subscribe to the theory that the shortest distance our food travels from the farm to our table is the best. So, our Great Harvest Red White and Blueberry bread is made with REAL, honest-to-goodness dried blueberries. Our muffins, scones and cakebreads are made with REAL fruit, usually either quick-frozen, dried, or fresh in-season. (quick-frozen and dried fruits are easier to work with when baking, as they do not fall apart or disintigrate when being mixed.

We’ll try to coax the natural flavor from the fruit, and leave the processed stuf for other bakeries. If we go to the effort of milling our own flour, and making everything from scratch, rather than relying on factory mass-produced dough or mixes, why would we cut corners on the fruit. I believe that our customers appreciate this attention to quality and freshness. It’s Independence Day, and we all have the freedom to choose what we believe is the best for us. Please let us know what you think.

ps. Here’s an interesting video on the disappearance of blueberries inĀ  food: