From a philosophical point of view, the notion of “quality” has formed a focus since the days of Aristotle. He saw quality as tied to the very nature of an object. Other thinkers through the years more prone to subjectivity brought relative characteristics, like beauty and excellence, into the discussion—and in our food-focused world, we could add deliciousness and dynamic contrast—all traits I’ve personally reveled in while eating the products from Publican Quality Bread, a Chicago wholesale bakery that forms our cover story focus this month. One bite into a thick slice of the bakery’s long-fermented Multigrain 1979 bread and you simultaneously experience a crunchy, highly caramelized crust and supremely tender crumb, with a flavor that presents balanced whole-grain nuttiness and light sourdough lactic acid tanginess. In a word, quality—and from an aptly named bakery.

Publican Quality Bread has come into a sharper focus from my perspective over the past couple of years as its wholesale business has shown significant growth. The quality that Head Baker Greg Wade builds into his breads is keenly evident—so much so that upward of 100 restaurants across Chicago are now customers. The next time you’re in Chicago, check it out at retail via Publican Quality Meats or take in a meal at The Publican.

A desire for Old World artisan breads is on the rise in America, and bakeries that can build a longer shelf life into those breads—without compromising ingredient simplicity—will likely find more slots in supermarket in-store bakeries (ISBs). A strong strategy for this market will likely incorporate a combination of the old and new—longer fermentation times (old) and modern packaging developments like modified-atmosphere packaging (new). Fresh bread merchandised in the ISB often has a notoriously short shelf life, and these approaches can breathe new life to that aspect of retail while reducing food waste. That’s a win-win for everyone.