Rebel Bakehouse

May 2020

An innovative bakery using ingredients such as hemp and purple corn

Wairarapa baker Breadcraft is developing a range of sustainable and nutritious baked goods. Research into alternative proteins has produced innovative products incorporating ingredients such as hemp and crickets. In November 2019 their wrap brand Rebel Bakehouse was runner up in the ‘Transforming Food’ category of the Sustainable Business Network Awards.
Breadcraft was established in 1942 by Harold Cockburn.

Today his grandson John, and John’s wife Julie-Anne direct the company with a 4th generation Cockburn now undertaking his apprenticeship at the company. Breadcraft alongside a number of other bakers formed Quality Bakers NZ Ltd in 1968. It’s a relationship that continues today, with Breadcraft providing products for a number of well-known brands under the Quality Baker’s umbrella for the Wairarapa region.

Breadcraft is looking to the future to anticipate and meet changing consumer tastes and concerns. They were one of the first bakeries in New Zealand to offer European artisan loaves, such as ciabatta and sourdough, and today the Rebel Bakehouse has cricket, hemp, and purple corn wraps on offer, alongside (the more common) spinach wraps.

In 2020 Breadcraft is one of the top three employers in the Wairarapa.
They currently have four plants in operation. The Everyday Bakery is capable of producing up to 3,200 loaves an hour; there is a Gluten-free Bakery; Artisan Breads covers stone baked goods, including a sourdough powered by an octogenarian bug sourced from San Francisco; and the Tortilleria produces wraps, pizza bases and tortillas.

In late 2019 they turned ground for their new Future Foods plant, dedicated to baking research, innovation and sustainability. John Cockburn acknowledges they couldn’t survive by producing only white bread with consumers demanding healthier, sustainable options and increasingly wary of high carbohydrate foods. As a result, health and nutrition have become key drivers for innovation at Breadcraft, making baked goods using alternative proteins and boosted nutrients.

Three ingredients the team focused on were; cricket and hemp flour (both are complete proteins), and antioxidant-rich purple corn.

Cricket flour is made from black field crickets common in New Zealand. The flour is an excellent source of different nutrients including vitamin B and a complete protein, without the environmental impacts of traditional meat proteins. Crickets can also be farmed in urban areas close to consumers and Breadcraft has a pilot cricket farm close to their bakery in Masterton.

Breadcraft Marketing and Sales Manager Chris Petersen refers to hemp as a superfood. Hemp seed flour is a complete protein, rich in fibre and omega 3’s.

Purple corn, is an ancient grain grown in South America. It is richer in anthocyanins than blueberries, and high in fibre. Anthocyanins are compounds that make a red/purple colour in plants and are known anti- oxidants. One purple corn wrap has 14% of the fibre requirement for an adult.

These ingredients have required extensive ‘tinkering’ and testing in order to create tasty, healthy and high quality end products. Chris points out that they had to run a number of experimental trials to find the right amounts of cricket powder to add to boost nutritional value while ensuring the resulting wrap remained moist enough to prevent cracking when rolled.

Another key driver in product development is sustainability. Chris says that Breadcraft and Rebel Bakehouse have committed to “do better today than yesterday, we want to be leaders in new product development, and sourcing local, sustainable ingredients’”.

Breadcraft is moving to 100% New Zealand grown wheat, a product they prefer, as it comes without the bleaching imported flours incur. One new supplier is a local Wairarapa farm that moved into wheat following the disruption to pea cropping in the area caused by the arrival of the pea weevil.

Hemp initially had to be sourced from offshore. Now Breadcraft works with the Hemp Farm, a New Zealand hemp business that contracts local hemp growers and sources hemps and hemp products.

Due to the association of hemp with marijuana (even though hemp is virtually free of the hallucinatory compound THC), many countries heavily regulated or prohibited hemp farming. In late 2006 New Zealand regulations around hemp cultivation were relaxed but it was not until 2018 that law changes allowed the human consumption of hemp seed. With increasing areas of hemp crops sown around New Zealand, Breadcraft can now source locally and there appears to be increasing interest in growing hemp as part of a diversified cropping operation. Local, organic farmer Shaun Rose and his wife Kirsty are among the many trialling hemp as part of a diversified cropping strategy.

Sometimes referred to as a ‘carbon negative’ raw material, hemp takes up CO2 at a faster rate than most plants. It enriches the soil with carbon and microbial content; prohibits weed growth; is beneficial to the soil structure; and the plant draws contaminants (such as heavy metals) out of the soil through a process called phytoremediation. Hemp phytoremediation is being encouraged as a 2 to 3 yearly rotation crop to clean up soil on farms.

One Rebel Bakehouse hemp wrap or cricket wrap will supply nearly 20% of an adult’s daily protein requirement. Hemp ticks a lot of boxes for sustainability, from uses in regenerative farming to a myriad of products including food, fibre, biocomposite materials and fabric, using a fraction of the water used in cotton production.


Showdown Productions Ltd - Rural Delivery Series 15 2020