I don’t like diets – I think they encourage extreme behavior rather than health consciousness, but when one doesn’t have the motivation or the determination to make the healthy choice, then what?
I went to visit Matthew Ballenden, the founder and owner of Fresh Earth Bake House, an extension of the successful mother brand, Fresh Earth Food Store. I was interested in finding out his views on diet fads and lifestyle choices, on where he thinks this is all going – after all he’s just started up a five million rand gluten-free bakery.
I meet with a very tall and fit Matthew, donning Clark Kent-style glasses and a grin that runs from ear to ear. I soon realize he’s a gentle giant and, after a brief chat, that he’s a passionate man with a tremendous plan.
He’s been running the food store successfully for 9 years now, but he actually started it out as a Vegan/Raw food restaurant using no sugar, eggs or wheat and, in his own words: ‘it was crap – the food just didn’t taste good’.
He realized he needed to establish a balance between making seriously healthy food and food that tasted seriously good.
He realized that he needed to listen to his clients’ wants and needs, he explains: ‘People are addicted to carbs - to refined foods, when you walk into a supermarket just about everything on the shelves in refined. It’s what people want.’
So he’s set about making unrefined, gluten free, sugar free, wheat free…basically ‘better for you’ alternatives that won’t stop people from having what they want, but will rather, let them have their bread and eat it too.
The gluten-free range grew organically from there, but he was reluctant to take it too seriously, until a strike at the docks meant that they couldn’t get the imported flours they needed to bake their breads for 6 weeks. They began getting phone calls from customers who were dependant on their products, people with serious allergies who were offering to drive from PE and Bloemfontein to get his breads, and he suddenly understood that he was onto something very big.
He doesn’t see it as a fad in the same way as diets that come and go because many people are actually allergic to gluten, he also doesn’t see it as a fad because, for him, it’s about a lifestyle choice: about the creation of a product range including sugar-free alternatives, all natural nut butters, organic alternatives and, of course, gluten free everything.
He sees his role as assisting in creating a consciousness around what we put in our mouths, but at the same time it’s about not taking it all too seriously, offering people a nice alternative because in his words, ‘to live a great life you need balance.’
As I write this I am surrounded by an array of his products: gluten free seed bread which I have lathered in a little organic, sugar free peanut butter, gluten free chocolate cookies and choc and pecan muffins…and I have to say I’m impressed – there’s little difference apart from the slightest in texture, for the most part you couldn’t tell the difference.
Whilst I’m an ‘everything in moderation’ kind of girl, the product range that Matthew has created really offers those who aren’t, a superb alternative.
Fresh Earth gluten free products are now available at Dischems nationwide as well as many Pick n Pay, SPAR's and online.
The Fresh Earth Store is located at 103 Komatie Road, Emmarentia, Gauteng.
Call the Fresh Food Earth Store on 011 646 4404 or email them on email@example.com