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The Latest News from Wheatsville

Posts by Aldia Bluewillow

Response: How to Raise Worker Wages

On Thursday, March 30th, the Chronicle reported on the work we’ve done with livable wages & benefits at Wheatsville over the past year, How to Raise Worker Wages by Jack Craver, as part of a much larger article about the challenge of workers making a livable wage in Austin. The co-op has worked long and hard on behalf of both our owners and 235 staff members to get all staff earning a livable wage with benefits and we’re pleased to be the concrete example of a business doing right by its employees in the article.

We know that you have a lot of choices for where you buy your food. This article strongly suggests that the kind of businesses you choose to support matter. Sure, in many ways choosing your grocer seems like such a small act – buying a loaf of bread, apple, or jug of milk. But the fact is when you shop here at the co-op, you support livable wages & benefits and a co-op full of PEOPLE, just like you, that come to work every day and try to make a positive impact in this world.  YOUR SHOP MATTERS. PEOPLE MATTER.

While we know that we have not satisfied every staff member or owner around our wage issues, we have worked very hard, and have done our best to address a very complicated problem as shown in the article. This issue is not just a Wheatsville issue, a box store issue, an independent business issue – this is a community issue. How are we lining up to take care of each other? How do we ensure good paying jobs for the future?

Our co-op was started 41 years ago as an alternative to other grocery stores. We listened, we fought, we joined together, we worked hard, we changed, we grew, we acted. We approached the Livable Wage & Benefits problem the same way we’ve been operating years - TOGETHER. Each of us brings a different perspective – but through open and honest dialogue and respectfully listening to each other’s point of view, we solve problems.

We’re happy the Chronicle decided to dig deeper into a complicated issue and glad that we can be a positive example of a good approach to dealing with this challenge. At the same time, we’re pressing forward to ensure that our co-op thrives and survives for another several decades and are glad that we can do so by being a good employer.

We appreciate your support, patronage, feedback, contribution, and criticism. It’s all part of the ecosystem that allows us to grow stronger together!

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Local Vendor Spotlight: Better Bites Bakery

Leah Lopez, Founder and CEO Better Bites Bakery, answered a few questions about her very special baked treats.

1. What led you to start your business?


I founded Better Bites Bakery with a simple mission in mind - I wanted my son to be able to enjoy delicious treats and not feel left out due to his severe food allergies. I believe that food is a BLESSING, but there was nothing on the market that was safe for my son - and delicious enough to be enjoyed by the entire family. Given this discovery, we embraced our new journey and the creative cooking began! It wasn't long until I realized that people were loving what was coming out of my kitchen and I was thrilled to share the passion that I had for baking with others.

2. What kind of ingredients do you use?


We strive to be very intentional with our ingredients. Our bakery sources only the finest gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, Kosher Pareve certified, real food ingredients. We never use artificial colours or preservatives. We believe this is not only better for our bodies, but our taste buds, as well.

3. What allergens do your products NOT contain?


Our products are free of the top 7 allergens. Those allergens are dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, and peanuts. We also do not have tree nuts in our facility or products, with the exception of coconut in our Mostess Cupcakes. We are confident that our stringent sanitation procedures will avoid cross contamination for those who avoid coconut.

4. What are some of your favorite things about Wheatsville?


The fact that the Popcorn Tofu is now gluten-free is AWESOME! Also, my employees are definitely hooked on the vegan donuts. I love that we can be inclusive with our breakroom snack choices and not leave anyone out.

5. Do you have a favorite cool tip?

I love Cookie DO Bites au naturel, but I have a weakness for milkshakes. I love to throw in vanilla ice cream, milk, ice, and a few DO Bites into a blender for a chocolate chip cookie dough milkshake. Try it – you’ll love it!

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Local Vendor Spotlight: The Natural Citizen

The Natural Citizen founders, Angela and Nadia, share the scoop on their nutritious smoothie add-ins.

1. What led you to start your business?


ANGELA: We believe in honest-to-goodness wellness, and that's why we set out to create a transparent, real-food nutrition company that is a force for good. I have been a plant protein smoothie drinker for several years, so when I got pregnant, I started to question the quality of the ingredients that I was adding to my smoothie. I called up Nadia, who is a regulatory lawyer and quality expert, and together we went through everything on the shelf. Nothing was exactly what we were looking for, which were just super clean, incredibly simple and high-quality smoothie add-ins that deliver a functional benefit.

NADIA: That's when we went to work formulating our own blends. From our experience in the natural food industry, we knew that the fewer ingredients we used, the more attention we could give to the quality and sourcing of our ingredients. Angela and I spent tons of time doing research, working with different ingredients and formulating blends in our kitchens. We wanted a product line that we could use personally, but also feel confident recommending to our friends and family. After hundreds of hours developing these products to meet our extremely high quality standards, I am proud to say that I use them daily and my friends and family have become huge fans of the line as well.


2. What kind of ingredients do you use?


NADIA: We use only real food ingredients, and each ingredient that we selected serves a unique purpose in its formulation. For example, our Organic Digest, which supports digestion and regularity, offers 5 grams of fiber, which is a balanced blend of both soluble and insoluble fibers. Plus, you get omega fatty acids from the chia seeds, prebiotics from the Jerusalem Artichoke to help nourish your naturally-occurring probiotics, and the soothing effects of Aloe vera. You get all of this in only four ingredients that work together to nourish the digestive tract.

Additionally, we selected very nutrient-rich plants that you won't find in the produce section, some might call these "superfoods." Our Organic Greens is the perfect example. This blend combines the best of the land and sea with moringa leaf, spirulina, alfalfa and barley. All four of these super green ingredients brings a unique nutritional profile to the formulation, and when combined, you get a nutrient-rich boost. Our Organic Greens has 30% of your daily value of iron plus 120% of your daily value of Vitamin B12 - and it's all from plants!

ANGELA: I think it's also important to point out that we know where our ingredients comes from. This is extremely important to us, and that's why as often as possible we source directly from the farm. We pay incredibly close attention to our supply chain and conduct rigorous quality testing before and after production, making sure that all of our ingredients surpass our quality standards.


3. What is different about your product as opposed to other smoothie ad-ins on the market?


ANGELA: First, we offer something very unique. The other add-ins on the market are either single "superfood" ingredients, or they are blends with a laundry list of ingredients. Unfortunately the ingredients on that laundry list tend to be there for flavor or marketing purposes and do very little for your health. We formulated our add-ins by selecting only four ingredients per blend, and each ingredient serves a very specific purpose. All four ingredients work together to deliver the functional benefit. We really believe that less is more, and with our blends you get fewer, but better ingredients and none of the unneccessary "extras."

NADIA: Additionally, our quality is the best of the best. By limiting the number of ingredients to only four, we are able to test the ingredients multiple times throughout the supply chain. Plus, all of our blends are certified organic, certified gluten free, certified vegan, and manufactured in an allergen-free facility in the USA. Very few of the other add-ins on the market can make all of those claims about quality.


4. What are some of your favorite things about Wheatsville?


NADIA: As a member of the co-op, I love the sense of community and how it supports local businesses. I also love the smoothie bar where you can find our blends as add-ins! Wheatsville has some of the best smoothies in town.

ANGELA: I love that I can find my favorite local brands all in one place! Additionally, working with Wheatsville has been amazing. The company is incredibly supportive of our business and we truly feel like it's a partnership.


5. Do you have a favorite/cool tips or recipes?


ANGELA: A lot of our fans use our blends for smoothies, but since they are unflavored and unsweetened they are so versatile. You can use them in oatmeal, overnight oats, stir them into yogurt, add to pancake batter - the possibilities are endless.


Now, as the temperature has dropped in Austin, a lot of people might not find a cold smoothie appealing, so I suggest making a warm smoothie!
You simply heat your almond milk on the stove or in the microwave and add to your blender. Warm liquids will create steam, so start your blender on low and vent often. Here's an easy recipe that is absolutely delicious:

Apple Pie Smoothie

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 raw apple, cored
1 serving The Natural Citizen Organic Digest
1 serving The Natural Citizen Organic Protein
1 tbsp. cinnamon
Sweeten to taste with honey (optional)

Combine the milk and the oats in the blender and let them soak for a couple minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend.

NADIA: When we do events, we make a simple PBJ&Greens smoothie that people love, they often ask us for the recipe. This is such an easy way to start making green smoothies if you don't already make them at home, and you can mix and match and use any of our blends in it!

PBJ&Greens

1 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen berries
1 heaping tbsp. peanut butter or nut butter
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 serving The Natural Citizen Organic Protein
1 serving The Natural Citizen Organic Greens (or 2 handfuls of spinach)

Add all ingredients to blender, and blend to desired consistency. Enjoy!

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Local Vendor Spotlight: FOND Bone Broth

Anna Obert and Alysa Seeland, co-founders of FOND Bone Broth, kindly answered a few questions to help us know more about their company.


Tell us about the name of your company, Fond Bone Broth.

FOND is french for “base” or “foundation.” We want people to see us as the foundation of their culinary and nutritional life - the first thing they reach for when they need a delicious meal, the first thing they think of when their body needs a boost. For too long taste and culinary craft were thought to be separate from nourishment. We came to believe that good tasting food was an indulgence and nourishing food was to be tolerated. The solution? FOND Bone Broth™. Whether you use it to elevate a meal or as a drink to nourish your body whole, our goal is to bring nourishing food to the height of culinary taste and ingenuity!

How long have you been making bone broths? Did you start for personal use? What made you start offering it for sale?

I used bone broth in my cooking for years — since I opened my first cook book — but drinking bone broth was a last ditch effort to find relief from a long history of medical complications. At the time I was taking $400 a month of quality supplements that were not being absorbed in my body. After seeing the dramatic benefits of drinking bone broth, I started telling others to drink it too. But there were two barriers: it was difficult to make (even find the ingredients to do it the right way) and even more difficult to flavor. So we decided to do it for you, to make it delicious and delightful and to support local farmers in the process who make this nourishing food even possible.

While it was started from a personal journey, our team is integral in creating the experience you have when you open the jar. From the care in production (still hand-crafted!) to the aesthetics on the label, our team’s commitment to excellence and the love and care of the land is the reason our product is set apart.

What farms do you work with to get your produce and animals?

We work with COBB Creek Ranch, Tandem Farm Company, Parker Creek Ranch, Braune Family Farms, Markley Family Farms, Johnson’s Backyard Organics, and many others on a case-by-case basis. We add to the list of farmers we work with weekly. We are ALWAYS looking to work with and support more and more farmers and we invite farmers who are intentional about their growing practices to reach out to us!

What’s your favorite flavor? I think mine is Liquid Light. I made a chicken and pasta dish with a light creamy sauce using Liquid Light and it was the most delicious thing I’ve EVER cooked.

Everyone on the team has their own favorite for sure, our Founder’s favorite for cooking is Trolley Dodger, but for drinking it is The Spur. The customer darling is definitely Youth Tonic and a close second is Liquid Light so to each their own! 

Can you share a simple recipe, one that might not be obvious?

FOND-A-ROUX

2 TB oil (we use ghee)
2 TB flour (we use non-gmo, organic heritage wheat but even coconut flour will do!)
4oz of Trolley Dodger
pinch of pink salt

Melt oil in a pan, add flour whisk together and let cook for 2 minutes - mixture will start to brown. Add Trolley Dodger whisking continually until the mixture thickens. This recipe is GOLD it will have you saying “put a roux on it” for every culinary instance going forward. Over easy eggs, roasted veggies, fresh tomatoes, french fries, chicken, potatoes - something delicious, something to nourish!

Are there any new products or broth flavors on the horizon?
We are always working on a new flavors, we’ll be launching one every month this fall and winter and will debut a new one shortly in October, but we’re also working hard on a fish broth. The primary issue with fish broth is finding a sustainable source. Our first journey was out the backdoor to the pasture, now we’re heading out to sea!

What are some of your favorite foods to buy at Wheatsville?
There are so many! We love SRSLY Chocolate (almond sea salt can’t be beat!), we’re also big fans of Argus cider, Cuveé coffee is swoon-worthy, but we also love the many farmers that Wheatsville supports like EIEO Farms, Engel Farms, and Prickly Pair Farms.

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Local Vendor Spotlight: fitppl

fitppl was launched in late 2015 and proudly homegrown in Austin, Texas. Their mission is to create clean, sustainable products to help busy people stay fitppl. They only use simple, wholesome ingredients in their products; nothing artificial. They are environmentally conscious thinkers continually seeking packaging and materials to reduce their plastic footprint. This was ingrained in Their philosophy from the beginning, and they will continue with this commitment.

We spoke wih fitppl founder, Patrick Schecht, and he graciously answered a few questions for us.

1. Why did you decide to start fitppl?

The initial idea for fitppl was born in August of 2012, while I was working at an Austin-based start-up. They offered great perks in the micro-kitchen, with snacks and food, but most were processed and devoid of nutrients. I've always lived a health-conscious lifestyle and wanted an option to keep me from eating those sugary and fat-laden snacks. I asked the office manager to bring in a protein powder for the kitchen to make smoothies. She brought in a generic, dairy-based protein with flashy graphics and a laundry list of ingredients that you couldn't pronounce. People I spoke with wanted to make healthy choices, but they really needed simplicity to balance out their busy lifestyles. That's when I had my “A-ha” moment and said to myself, “there needs to be clean, simple products to help busy people stay fit people”. That's where the idea was born and I got to work from there. After three years of research and hard work, fitppl was finally launched!

2. Why did you choose the packaging you use?

As I was developing the product-line and business philosophy for fitppl, I wanted the company to have an underlying social cause. It was important to me that the company have a genuine soul and purpose. This initially came to me in October of 2013, while I was in Thailand swimming in Maya Bay. The water was so blue and beautiful, yet there was horrible plastic litter floating everywhere. I did some research and learned about the catastrophic plastic pollution problem plaguing our oceans. As I did more research, I learned about the pitfalls of our recycling programs as well as biodegradable plastic initiatives. In spite of all that, there persists an overall marketing strategy with most companies which supports a throw-away mentally. I found that I was so under-informed about the situation…and knew I wasn't the only one. That's when the “Ditch the Plastic” campaign was created. The campaign’s purpose is to educate people that any packaging discarded doesn't just go away or get automatically get recycled. Reducing demand and reusing is the key. This is why we chose to use kraft-paper pouches instead of bulky plastic containers and each bag of protein and superfood includes a reusable wooden scoop.

3. What are the advantages of your plant proteins and superfood?

We kept the ingredients clean and simple for each product. No other ingredients, "natural flavors" or stevia. Even without all the artificial stuff, our organic plant proteins are smooth and delicious! They offer 16 grams of organic, raw protein with a complete amino acid profile, and come is 2 great flavors: Vanilla-Goji and Cocoa-Blueberry. Our organic green and red superfood is packed with superfood fruits, cereal grasses plus fresh and salt water algae. They deliver chlorophyll, enzymes, vitamins, antioxidants and nutrients. Our green and red superfood is unique and tangy! You can mix each product with just water, add to your favorite smoothie or include in recipes. They all include a reusable wooden scoop!

4. Anything new in the works?

Lots of awesome things in the works...Stay tuned!

5. What are your favorite things about Wheatsville Co-op?

Wheatsville Co-op is a staple in Austin. Growing up here, I can remember my Dad bringing me in anytime we were on Guadalupe. Wheatsville has so much heart and soul. Their sense of community is amazing. Everyone there is so friendly and supportive. Cody really believed in our philosophy and gave us our first shot as a new company…something I'll never forget. Wheatsville is the ideal fit for fitppl and I couldn't be happier having Wheatsville as our premiere store.

Cody Atkins' Superfood Smoothie Recipe

1 serving of Fitppl Vanilla and Goji Superfood Protein
12 oz Pacific Unsweetened Original Almond Milk
1 sliced and frozen banana
¼ cup Woodstock frozen Dark Sweet Cherries (about 5)
¼ cup Woodstock frozen Blueberries
¼ tsp. Frontier Vanilla Extract (optional)

Combine all ingredients in blender jar. Pulse until a smooth consistency is achieved.

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Local Vendor Spotlight: Skull & Cakebones

When and why did you decide to make vegan cupcakes?
Sascha has been vegan baking since 2002 when her infant presented with dairy and egg allergies. Coming from a great line of bakers, her library filled with old newspaper clippings and recipes transcribed from generations past, Sascha taught herself how to recreate these recipes as vegan. Yauss, who has both an undergraduate and graduate degree in design, has been working in the industry since 2003. She has honed her skills in marketing and design, teaching at the college level for over a decade. In fall 2011, Yauss’s mom started encouraging us to put our talents together to package and sell cupcakes. We decided to take the leap in early 2013 and the rest is sweet, sweet history.

What local partners’ products do you use?
Cuvee coffee, Buddha’s Brew kombuchas, Jester King beers, Buzz Mill Coffee, SRSLY chocolate, JBG Organic veggies, Love Bean fudge and caramel spreads, Tequila 512, Treaty Oak rum, Revolution Spirits gin, NadaMoo! ice creams, Bona Dea gluten free flour blend, confituras jams, Zhi teas, Hot Dang OG burger, Happy Hemp toasted hemp seeds, Austin Pesto Co. basil, and lick ice cream so far.

What is your favorite treat that you make?
We can’t get enough of that chocolate Cuvee coffee pudding that goes on top of the Mocha Marmalade trifle jars. Whenever we make it, we all take a little bit home to eat (usually at night, before bed, IN bed!)

Are there new products in the works?
We are always working on new and exciting products! We are constantly looking for new partnerships for the most unique flavor pairings we can bring to market. If we aren’t baking for production, we are baking for R&D.

What are your favorite things about Wheatsville Co-op?
Do you mean besides Popcorn Tofu?! A trip to Wheatsville feels like a trip to visit with old friends. Everyone there is so lovely, supportive, and kind. It feels like everyone really believes in our company and our product, and is as invested in selling it as we are. We have SO much gratitude for the Wheatsville Co-op family and their bear hug of warmth.

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Local Vendor Spotlight: Dos Lunas Cheese

Joaquin Avellan, CEO of Dos Lunas Cheese, graciously answered a few questions for us:

1. When and why did you decide to make cheese?

I just wanted to make something really good for my wife. And, I wanted it to be a gift from deep inside me, which meant from my homeland of Venezuela.

I am the chef in our home, and I put my heart on every plate. And, since my father had retired to a farm in the Andes and had started a dairy farm, I fell into cheesemaking during a long visit in 2011.

Back in Austin, I kept experimenting, putting more and more heart into more and more cheese. One day, my wife smiled and said she loved it (and me) but 80 gallons a week was too much for our kitchen and our refrigerator.

So, I pitched a tent at a farmer’s market and sold out the first day. Now, I put my heart onto every plate I can!

2. What kind of milk do you use?

The most pristine milk I could find in Central Texas, from Stryk Jersey Farm in Schulenburg, Texas. Their small herd of Jerseys are all grass-fed and free roaming, and I can literally taste the earth and the seasons in every bucket, all year round.

Bob and Darlene Stryk are the best, wonderful and ethical farmers and such good souls. You can taste all that goodness in their milk, too.

3 What is your favorite cheese that you make?

Dos Lunas Clasico. It is based on my father's recipe from Venezuela. Trying to capture that particular queso fresco taste in a freshly aged cheese was the original inspiration for establishing Dos Lunas Artisan Cheeses. And besides, it melts so well and makes a mean quick quesadilla.

4. Are there new products in the works?

Oh yes! Every year we design new cheeses, and for the past year we have been developing cave aged cheeses with a rind. The prototypes have been very successful, and I can't wait to share them with the world as well.


5. What are your favorite things about Wheatsville Co-op?

Wheatsville, being a co-op, is quite literally about sharing, about coming together with the best we have. It’s about community, and about sharing true health in our community. That’s exactly what Dos Lunas aspires to be about as well.

And, Wheatsville didn’t just buy from us. They have engaged with us and helped us so much, with everything from how to improve our packaging to encouraging us to create more flavors.
We admire the generous sharing spirit of Wheatsville.

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