An organic pastry factory in San Mateo, founded in 2006, is now selling its pastries, bread and cookies across the country. Located in an old bakery building near Highway 101, Pastry Smart is producing cheese crisp crackers for Whole Foods market in 13 states. The factory also supplies bread and pastries to high-end hotels and community grocery stores, including several Ritz Carlton hotels, and New Leaf market in Half Moon Bay.
Pastry Smart President and Founder Mark Ainsworth prepares pastries during a March of Dimes fundraiser last year. The company is producing cheese crisp crackers for Whole Foods market in 13 states.
"Nobody knows that we're here and that we supply all of these people,” said Mark Ainsworth, president and founder of Pastry Smart.
The company is also selling white whole wheat muffin batters and bread rolls to school cafeterias. They chose a "white” whole wheat so kids don't think twice about eating whole grains, said Ainsworth.
He is enjoying the rapid expansion of his business, but is hoping to resonate more with the surrounding community by creating brands that speak to the history of San Mateo County.
Pastry Smart is beginning a new chocolate line called "Mission Blue.” The name comes from an endangered butterfly species that is indigenous to the area, said Ainsworth.
"[The name] gives us roots here,” he said, adding that naming the chocolate after an endangered species also speaks to the rarity of the type of European confections that will be in the "Mission Blue” line.
"Our way of making chocolate is sort of a dying art,” he said.
Quality in the baking aisle
In most grocery stores, the produce aisle offers a multitude of organic and local products. In the baked goods aisle, however, customers rarely see such options. Crackers, cookies and bread almost always contain a laundry list of ingredients that are difficult to pronounce.
Ainsworth is changing all of that with Pastry Smart.
"You look at our labels and there's less than nine ingredients,” he said. "We buy the best ingredients on the planet.”
His artisan-bakery-meets-modern-pastry-factory creates par-baked loaves, sandwich rolls, cookies dough and chocolate with high-quality organic ingredients.
As he watched chefs transfer loaves of rosemary ciabatta dough onto an oven conveyor belt, Ainsworth explained that the highly automated equipment that fills the factory helps to ensure quality and consistency of the pastries.
Some people look at the state-of-the-art machinery in the production room and tell Ainsworth that his bakery is far from "artisan.” But he disagrees.
"We hand-pack cookies and hand-shape our bread,” he said. "In today's world, we most certainly are [artisan].”
Organic and sustainable
Pastry Smart is the only American Humane certified bakery in the country, according to Ainsworth, who worked for Ritz Carlton as a pastry chef. A humane certification signifies that all ingredients in the products, such as dairy, are produced from humanely raised animals.
When Ainsworth founded Pastry Smart in 2006, his goal was to make the highest-quality product, which led him to source organic ingredients.
All of milk and butter products used by Pastry Smart are from the humane certified Clover Stornetta Farms in Northern California. Much of the company's flour comes from Giusto's, an organic flour company in South San Francisco.
The company also strives to be environmentally conscious. Solar panels on the roof of the bakery provide about one quarter of the factory's power. Packaging is engineered to be cost-effective and recyclable, even down to the labels, which are printed using soy inks. Ingredients such as flour and oil are ordered in very large bulk containers to cut down on the frequencies of delivery trucks.
When asked why he decided to pay such close attention to the details of his products, Ainsworth said, "its just part of our culture.”
Usually businesses see a market demand and try to reform their product so it meets that demand. Ainsworth sees his company as backward in this way: he followed his own ideals and found that there was a demand for his products.
"We thought quality would drive the company,” he said.
And the quality certainly has driven Pastry Smart's success. Whole Foods, for example, has very specific demands for its products in terms of organic ingredients and sustainability.
"We were already doing it,” he said. "Whole Foods said, ‘where have you been?'”
People are drawn to organics as they become more and more educated about processed foods, said Ainsworth.
"I think the expectations of consumers have been elevated,” he said.
Pastry Smart is expected to begin supplying Costco in the near future. Production of "Mission Blue” chocolate will begin in the next few months.
Pastry Smart is at 1100 S. Amphlett Blvd. in San Mateo. For more information and retail locations visit: www.pastrysmart.com.