The success story of slow bread

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29 April 2019

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Stay away from a beautiful product

The tone has been set. Frank van Eerd is someone with a passion for bread and a clear philosophy. The fact that he sometimes goes against the grain of his colleagues does not bother him. "As an industry we have to be honest with ourselves instead of complaining. The Bread Belly, The Food Sandal, these are books that address something. Is there truth in that, have we messed with things we should have stayed away from? I think we have to admit, at least in part, that it is true. We ruined a beautiful artisan product like bread in the post-war period by adding all kinds of things to it and by wanting to speed up the process. We started making fast food bread: bread that costs little and is ready within 3 hours. That's why at De Bisschopsmolen we stand for Slowfood bread, with real homemade sourdough and hey time."

Spelt as a base

For years, the Kollenberger Spelt has been an important raw material for much of the bread that De Bisschopsmolen bakes. "We are the first spelt baker in the Netherlands. When I worked as a food manager at Le Marche in Sittard, we started with 500 loaves of Kollenberger Spelt. Everything was sold in one day! While of course it has a higher price. Spelt is three times more expensive than wheat. We don't negotiate about the price, we give the farmer something. That way we don't have to pay subsidies. And because you enter into a long-term cooperation, you give the farmer more security and the price is more stable. When spelt became very popular and prices rose, a party called one of our growers, Huub Diederen, and offered to buy everything for a higher asking price. But Huub decided to reject the offer: he prefers a long-term relationship with a reliable party. That's also part of our philosophy: long-term cooperation with suppliers we know and trust. Honesty lasts the longest."

Sports and native grains

It sounds like De Bisschopsmolen is not innovating, but going back in time. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. "We are constantly working on product development and innovation. Sport is an important source of inspiration here. Cyclist Laurens ten Dam was already a regular customer of ours and via Twitter there was more personal contact. He introduced us to the Rabobank cycling team and a whole new world opened up to us: the world of sports nutrition. How are nutrients absorbed by the body? What do certain ingredients do for your energy level, your recovery, the building of muscles? By working together with nutritional advisors and chefs of top athletes we have learned a lot and applied it in our products, instead of going along with hypes and empty phrases. An illusion, for example, is low-carbohydrate bread. That is marketing bread and has nothing to do with good nutrition. We developed Desem Barley Bread that ensures the slow processing of carbohydrates. That is craftsmanship! Another example is Desem Spelt with Quinoa and Oats. This bread was developed for the right proteins for Steven Kruiswijk's Giro. Later it turned out that Tom Dumoulin also eats this bread because of his intestinal problems. When athletes have problems with their intestines because of certain foods, we look for alternative grains. Think of original grains such as teff or triticale. At the beginning of such a process things always go wrong, then the bread doesn't look or taste right. And then you start searching for the perfect recipe: experimenting, testing, adjusting, again. Now we're almost ready with a new sports bar with banana."

Sharing knowledge

Knowledge about grains and how grain products fit within a healthy lifestyle is widely shared through GrainLabs. At you will find recipes, extensive information about various grains and blogs. "In Groningen a lot of grain may be grown, but in Limburg we have the knowledge. We want to share that knowledge generously, so that people can discover what it's really like and make informed choices instead of being led by hypes.
We also help entrepreneurs who want to learn from us. Using different techniques and planning your production process smartly, that's where you get your profits. A baker who works at night is a stupid baker. The modern consumer buys his bread at the end of the day, to eat the next day. Surely then it is better to bake during the day and preferably keep your store open a little longer? And think about food waste: far too much bread is produced and then we throw away 30 percent! We only throw away 2 percent. Can you imagine what that does to your margins if you anticipate better and produce smarter? To be honest, I see more attention to artisan baking in supermarkets than in the small independent baker. Many small bakers prefer to choose speed and convenience and be led by sales representatives. But if you want to, it is possible to combine healthy entrepreneurship with craftsmanship."

Growth by the young generation

The Bishop's Mill mainly attracts consumers from two generations: the young and the 50+, who recognize the bread of the past. "Many 40-somethings don't understand what we do. They believe in labels such as Ik kies Bewust or Biologisch rather than in traditional methods. But younger generations are very conscious about food: they want to know the origin of food products and how something is made. That fits in with our philosophy." De Bisschopsmolen's bakery, store and catering facility all still just fit in the heart of central Maastricht, but there is not a millimeter of room to grow further. "We will therefore separate the production of the bakery from the current location. We want to offer the consumer a total experience around the grains with products from the bakery and the catering industry. Time for a new phase of De Bisschopsmolen!"

Tips from Frank van Eerd

  • Forget the long term planning: You have to respond to the market faster than ever, otherwise you will be behind the times. Forget Leave More to Business than You Think
  • Seek the Connection: Work with partners who share your philosophy and give them a good, stable price.
  • Deep into the original craft if you want to go for healthy and for quality. Gather people around you who also want to do craft.
  • Look outside your own industry and field: by learning from people with different expertise and perspective you are going to see opportunities for innovation.
  • Stay true to your principles and don't be intimidated or talked down by people who just don't get it.