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Q&A with John Tucker, CEO of Dave’s Killer Bread

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It seems that everyone is on a health kick today. Labels scream out what makes them better than others in an attempt to jump into shopping carts. That doesn’t mean that claims still can’t be deceptive, however. But with products like Dave’s Killer Bread, you can put all worries aside… and that white rainbow bread along with it.

This company, founded by two brothers and his son has an unconventional story… and one that shows what’s possible when you think you have hit rock bottom. Glenn and Dave Dahl, and later Glenn’s son, Shobi, created Dave’s Killer Bread. Dave grew up in the bakery business working alongside his father, Jim and brother. But rising rolls didn’t interest him like it did his brother Glenn, who took over the business from his father. Dave was struggling with depression and addiction and ended up in prison several times. In 2004 he was released and set out on a quest to work on his mental health. With a job at the family bakery, Dave went to work developing a new line of innovative and healthy bread that would appeal to a younger demographic.

The result, as you know if you have ever tried this bread, is not only delicious but also power-packed with organic nutrition. The bread is seeded all the way around with flax, sesame and sunflower seeds. Dave called them “killer” and the name stuck. One year later in 2005, Dave’s Killer Bread officially launched at a small booth at the Portland Farmer’s Market, with four different sandwich breads and a vision to make the world a better place, one loaf of bread at a time. Today, nearly nine years, 14 states, and around a dozen varieties later, we are poised for national distribution.

What is particularly cool is that Dave’s Killer Bread has taken that spirit of reinvention and created opportunities for so many people. Today, around 30 percent of our employee partners have served time in prison and are now making a better life for themselves, their families and the community. Learn more in a Q&A with CEO, John Tucker.

Q: What is the biggest challenge of running the business?

The biggest challenge with running a fresh bread business is working out the logistics to become a national brand. The demand for our breads is there and that is hugely exciting. We are currently the #1 selling organic bread company in the country and we are still only sold regionally in the western states. That means we are outselling organic national bread brands that have significantly more distribution. Our challenge is that we want to deliver fresh breads with the same excellent quality that we bake each day in Oregon. It isn’t easy to ship fresh bread 3,000 miles across the country. So, we have been working out those details in order to get our breads to kitchens across the U.S. and across the border into Canada.

Q: And biggest reward?

It is hard to narrow it down to one so bear with me. One big reward is the fan enthusiasm. We call our fans Breadhead Nation. They are incredibly passionate about our breads. I can’t underscore how much we appreciate them. They have propelled our tremendous growth during a time when bread has essentially been under siege from low-carb and gluten-free diets. They are helping us to change the industry and break out of a field that has been dominated by white bread. We are committed to offering organic, whole grain breads that are Non-GMO Project Verified and power packed with nutrition. And, we actively seek their feedback in the research and development process for product innovation.

The other biggest reward is the fact that Dave’s Killer Bread is a team of nearly 300 passionate employees who want to bake the world’s best breads. Period. That is very much who we are. Our DKB family is passionate about kindness, compassion and excellence. We are committed to supporting those that may be left behind and providing them with support and skills that will help them create lasting change in their own lives. I am so moved by the number of stories of personal reinvention that we have within our own team. Our team works hard to make a better life for themselves, their families and also the community.

We support numerous charities that also provide renewed chances to families such as SE Works and Living Yoga – both of which help inmates re-enter society. The National Alliance on Mental Illness, which is near and dear to Dave. As well as Project Pooch, which has done remarkable work rehabilitating inmates and keeping them from destructive paths. This is who we are and we will continue this work, because we know how important these issues are. They have touched our hearts and we have a deep and inherent desire to help those who have walked in difficult shoes. We also launched our new Good Seed Grant program in January of this year, which will provide financial support to even more organizations helping those in need.

Q: What is something readers would be surprised to know about you or your business?

We source our organic wheat from the world’s best –Montana – where we compete with Italian pasta manufacturers who come to the U.S. for this outstanding ingredient. This wheat is all organic and high in protein.

We took risks no one else would take and reimagined what bread could be. Our bread is USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified. We elected to hand-wrap the bread all the way around with seeds and grains instead of just dusting the top with seed “toppings”. Dave’s Killer Bread is assertively seeded all the way around and all the way through with flax, sesame and sunflower seeds. We use super ingredients like quinoa, kamut khorasan, amaranth and blue cornmeal. The result is bread that is power-packed with Omega-3s, fiber, protein and whole grains. An average slice of our bread has 5 or 6 grams of protein. And we’ve been focused on providing this power-packed nutritional bread since day one. I like to think, to some degree, we were ahead of trends in healthier diets and importance of whole grains.

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