The Color of The Twist Tie on Bread Packaging Means Something

Daven Hiskey May 25, 2010 12
delicious breadToday I Found Out what the color of the twist tie or tabs on bread packaging means; namely, what day of the week the bread was baked on.

This practice of having a different color twist ties or tabs for different days of the week is not meant necessarily to be used by the customer, but actually to aid the person stocking the shelves with bread in determining what bread is old and needs removed from the shelves.  This way, they don’t actually have to look closely at the tabs (which usually also show a “sell by” date); they can simply just look for ones of a specific color and remove those.

Unfortunately, there is no industry wide standard on a specific color scheme, so each bread manufacturer uses their own color code.  However, you can find out what the color scheme is for your favorite bread by either checking around on the web or simply emailing the company that makes your favorite bread and asking.  If you happen to be at the store when someone is stocking the bread, you could always ask them as well.

Bonus Facts:

  • On any given day in a store, you’ll notice that for each brand of bread, you’ll probably only see two different colors on the twist ties or tabs.  This is because, typically, bread from a given brand will only be delivered twice a week to a store on set days of the week.   So the two colors you’ll see are the most recently delivered and the previous delivery.
  • The inner part of the bread encased by the crust is called the “crumb”, hence why small bits of this part of the bread are called crumbs.
  • Bread is one of the oldest known prepared foods with records of it going back all the way to the Neolithic era around 10,000 BC, which was right at the end of the Stone Age.
  • It is thought that the first leavened breads probably happened by accident.  Yeast spores are ubiquitous and are even found on the surface of cereal grains.  Any dough then left out and not cooked right away will naturally leaven to a certain extent.  So in the absence of a source of yeast or other leavening agent, one can simply leave prepared dough exposed to fresh air for a certain amount of time in order to leaven it.
  • The Gauls and Iberians used foam from beer to leaven their bread, according to Pliny the Elder who lived around 2000 years ago.
  • Incidentally, Pliny the Elder, the famed author, naturalist, philosopher, and commander, died trying to rescue people stranded on the shores after the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, which destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum.    While attempting to sail his ship near the shore, burning cinders fell on the ship.  Rather than turn around, as his helmsman suggested, Pliny stated “Fortune favors the brave!  Steer to where Pomponianus is.”  He landed safely and was able to rescue his friends and others on the shore.  However, he never left that shore.  Before they were able to set out again (they needed the winds to shift before they could safely leave), he died and ended up being left behind.  It is thought he died of some sort of asthmatic attack or by some cardiovascular event, possibly brought on by the heavy fumes and heat from the volcano.  His body was later retrieved three days later buried under pumice and it had no apparent external injuries.  He was around 56 years old.
  • Back on topic, another handy way to leaven bread around Pliny’s time was to make a paste of grape juice and flour and then let it ferment.
  • Once you have one batch of dough that is leavened, you can simply keep some of that dough uncooked and combine that piece with dough you make in the future.  You can then continue this practice more or less indefinitely.
  • Ancient Egyptian governments strictly controlled the production and distribution of bread as a means of controlling the populace; bread was the primary food source for most people at the time.  If bread was taken away, most people in Egypt at that time would have starved.
  • Ancient Egypt wasn’t the only place where bread was the most important food source.  During the 18th century in France, one of the triggers for the French Revolution was a shortage of bread.
  • Even today, millions of impoverished people in the world, particularly in developing nations, survive on bread, tea, cheese, and little else.  Nutritionally, bread is a very inexpensive source of calories and contains decent levels of proteins.  It can also be made from a variety of sources outside of the more standard wheat.  One of the more bizarre things bread floor can be made out of is certain types of tree bark.
  • Interestingly, throughout history, highly refined white bread was a luxury only available to the wealthy and thus was seen as a status symbol.  Breads from whole grains were only for the poor.  Today, due to whole grain bread being relatively healthy compared to white bread, that trend has switched.  Indeed, whole grain bread is typically more expensive today than highly refined white bread.
  • Whole grained breads were so looked down upon in some areas that they were used as a form of punishment.  For instance, monks who had committed serious offenses were disciplined by being forced to live on course barley bread for a certain amount of time.
  • By feudal law, European lords were bound to provide a public oven to be used by their vassals to bake bread; these ovens were originally introduced to Western Europe by the Romans.  This service was paid for typically by relatively hefty taxes.  These ovens weren’t very popular though, as it was inconvenient for the vassals unless they lived near the oven; people were also pretty good at just baking it themselves at home in the embers of their fires; the same way they had done before the Romans introduced ovens to Western Europe.  So mostly, it was just an excuse to tax the people more.
  • Before leavening bread dough became universally adopted in Europe, which took a lot longer than many other places in the world, people typically would flatten the dough to near transparent sheets.  They would then bake these sheets and use them as plates for preparing and serving other food.  The plates would get saturated with things like gravy and particles of other food and at this point made a tasty part of the meal and made for easy cleanup.  These sheets of thin unleavened bread were called “trenchers”.
  • In the middle ages in Western Europe, breads were typically named after the class of people who typically consumed a given type of bread.  There were knight’s loafs, squire’s loafs, varlet’s loafs, court’s loafs, pope’s loafs, common loafs, table loafs, etc.
  • Jews were once very famous for their bread making.  The Jews used a variety of types of bread during meals.  Some types were used in place of plates and bowls for holding food.  Once saturated with these foods this bread would be eaten.  They also used them instead of spoons for eating sauces and stews, by soaking the liquids up.  At the end of the meal, they used a certain type of bread as napkins to clean up after the meal.  This last was not eaten, but was typically tossed to the dogs or other animals, something referenced in Matthew 15:27 of the Bible.
  • A staple food source for Crusaders was twice baked bread, which was a form of very hard biscuit discovered by these Europeans during the Crusade.  This bread would keep for a very long time while traveling.  The crusaders brought this new way to make bread back to Europe after the crusades and twice baked bread became very popular aboard European ships and towns being threatened with siege.  A modification of this way of preparing bread introduced the biscuit more or less as we know it today, made of dry crumbling pastry.
  • Canadian flour has much higher protein levels than flour from most other regions.  Thus, bread made from this flower is very rich in protein.
  • The sour taste of sourdough bread comes from lactobacillus, which lives in symbiosis with yeast, feeding on byproducts of the yeast fermentation.  The sour taste itself comes from the lactic acid produced by the lactobacillus.  This also helps the bread last longer without spoiling as most microbes can’t handle the acidic environment created by the lactobacillus.
  • Before the 19th century, all yeast leavened bread was a type of sourdough bread as they didn’t understand that it wasn’t the yeast itself giving the bread the sour taste.  With advancements in microscopes though, they discovered this fact and were able to produce strains of yeast packaged and sold without lactobacillus.
  • Sourdough starters, a mixture of live yeast and lactobacilli, are maintained in mixtures of flour and water.  These starters can be maintained indefinitely and new cultures grown from them; they can even be refrigerated for extended periods, requiring no food during this dormant phase.  There are many such starters in existence today that are several human generations old, being maintained by companies and certain baker families as well as hobbyists today.  These starters can be experimented with and refined to produce unique flavored breads.
  • In 1961, the bread making industry received a huge boost when the Chorleywood Bread Process was developed.  This drastically reduced the fermentation time previously required to make bread.  This also allowed for using inferior grains than could previously be used.  This process is still popularly used today in bread making factories.
  • Writing this article made me ridiculously hungry for fresh baked bread, so I’m currently baking up a couple loaves.  If you’ve never made homemade bread, I highly recommend it.  It may well be the most delicious thing on the whole planet right out of the oven with some butter.  It also isn’t all that hard to make once you get the hang of it and is pretty cheap to make.  Here’s one simple method.  There are many more ways to make bread linked at this same location as well (see the sidebar).

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12 Comments »

  1. Shamus June 6, 2010 at 7:32 am - Reply

    I worked for Wonder Bread for seven years before being laid off even though our bakery was making money. The color of the ties do represent different days of the week that the bread was baked on, and also that loaf of breads sales day. In the southwest Missouri region the colors go as followed:

    Monday Sales: Blue Tie
    Tuesday Sales: Green Tie
    Thursday Sales: Red Tie
    Friday Sales: White Tie
    Saturday Sales: Yellow Tie

  2. Tommy Douglas October 24, 2010 at 10:57 pm - Reply

    As a former restaurant manager I was aware of the twist tie color coding. I find the other facts very interesting.

  3. kim January 29, 2014 at 9:07 pm - Reply

    in a column on a website entitled “today i found out,” shouldn’t the site be particularly concerned with checking information before publication? something simple, such as using the term “mid-evil,” can easily be corrected to the actual spelling of the phrase, “medieval,” and yet they are entirely different words and completely different concepts. why be so sloppy? if you’re intent on spreading knowledge, why not raise the bar high, and set your own standards above it? a job worth doing is worth doing well, dammit. getcher minds right.

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven Hiskey January 29, 2014 at 10:40 pm - Reply

      @kim: What you’re describing is less “checking information” and more “spotting typos”. Unfortunately, typos happen in ever work of sufficient size. There are no exceptions.

  4. Jake Lakota March 18, 2014 at 11:56 am - Reply

    “Unfortunately, typos happen in ever work of sufficient size” HAHAH I saw that!

    Being rather tall I get the bonus of being able to reach all the way in the back for eggs, milk, bread etc. Sometimes the dates are incredibly farther into the future.

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven Hiskey March 18, 2014 at 3:46 pm - Reply

      @Jake Lakota: My favorite is: Grammar Nazi’s. Gets them every time. ;-)

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