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On the Rise

Bread businesses are making a post-Atkins comeback.

The low-carb fad is slowing down from its once white-hot streak, and everyone from diet dabblers to the low-carb hard-liners--myself included--are now sneaking their hands back into the carb jar for a taste of the forbidden fruit--or maybe just a piece of bread. In February, the Grain Foods Foundation launched a public education campaign, Grains for Life, in an effort to extol the many nutritional virtues of breads and grains. With that PR boost, the bread industry seems poised to counterattack the low-carb blow. As bread businesses ready themselves for a comeback, entrepreneurs are right there at the front lines.

Wendy Born and James Barrett say no to vendors offering low-carb flour to Metropolitan Bakery, their Philadelphia business. The owners of the artisanal bakery decided education would be the best tool to battle against the 15 percent drop in sales they experienced during the Atkins craze. Says Born, "We have fliers to explain what our breads are, the differences between whole grain and white flour, and how bread is burned in the body." Training their staff to discuss the merits of bread has helped customers who may have shunned bread to see the good in whole grains. Since then, Born, 53, and Barrett, 42, have experienced an enormous boost in sales of multigrain bread, whole wheat bread and cracked wheat sourdough bread--they project 2005 sales of $3 million for their four stores.

For two decades, Stephen Lanzalotta has used a mathematical sequence publicized in the bestseller The Da Vinci Code in his artisanal bread making. So when he saw bread sales at his bakery, Sophia's, suddenly plummet from 80 percent to 20 percent of total sales, he decided to tap into the book's popularity. Sponsoring a series of lectures at the Portland, Maine, bakery and cafe, Lanzalotta, 46, introduced the Da Vinci Diet, using the "golden ratio" of carbs, fats and proteins. Customers have since flocked to Sophia's for their Da Vinci platters, and Lanzalotta plans to continue the educational lectures. With the changing tides, his bread sales increased 100 percent this year; already, whole grain breads are selling twice as much as his other breads.

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This article was originally published in the July 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: On the Rise.

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