Sourdough wellness parties, often used as a guise for promoting multilevel marketing (MLM) products and opportunities, raise several ethical considerations. While these events are advertised as educational workshops on topics like sourdough baking and even gardening, their underlying purpose often veers towards recruiting attendees into an MLM or selling MLM products. This is a classic bait-and-switch. Attendees might arrive expecting real education and community. But, they find themselves subjected to sales pitches.

Sourdough baking has become very popular. This was highlighted during the pandemic. Then, many people took up home baking as a hobby. 

Here are some others reasons why sourdough has become such a trend:

Health Reasons:

Sourdough bread is often perceived as a healthier alternative to regular bread. Sourdough undergoes natural fermentation. This can make it easier to digest than breads made with standard yeast.

Studies have looked at sourdough bread – finding it may help control blood sugar better than other breads. Sourdough fermentation changes the bread’s starches. This modification may lead to a slower rate of glucose release and a lower glycemic index (GI). Foods with a lower GI can help prevent spikes in blood sugar levels.

Depending on the type of flour used, sourdough bread can also have a high fiber content, which can also be helpful for blood sugar control. That said, while these factors suggest sourdough might be “better” than some other breads for those concerned about blood sugar spikes, it is important to note that individual responses can vary. Diabetics and others managing blood sugar disorders should monitor their own responses to different foods and consult with healthcare professionals to tailor their dietary choices.

Also, the research is supportive. But, it is not so extensive or conclusive. One cannot broadly claim that sourdough universally aids glycemic control. As with many nutritional claims, the broader context of an individual’s intake and health should always be considered. The benefits of sourdough on blood sugar are based on some science. But, they should not be overrated or seen as a standalone fix.

You may also hear about claims of it being good for gut health (or gastrointestinal health). The term “gut” is typically referring to your gastrointestinal system, specifically the stomach, and the small and large intestines. While the sourdough fermentation process involves beneficial bacteria, these bacteria do not survive the baking process. Fermentation can alter the nature of dietary fiber in the bread, potentially making it a more effective prebiotic.

Natural Ingredients and Process

Sourdough requires only three basic ingredients: flour, water, and salt. The “starter” culture is made from natural yeasts and bacteria in the environment. This simplicity and the avoidance of commercial yeast and additives appeal to those interested in natural foods.

Flavor and Texture:

Sourdough has a distinctive tangy flavor and chewy texture that many people find delicious and may prefer over commercially made breads.

Food Craft and Skill:

Making sourdough can be a rewarding culinary craft. It requires skill, patience, and an understanding of subtle nuances in temperature and timing, appealing to both amateur and seasoned bakers. The process of nurturing a starter and experimenting with different baking techniques provides a fulfilling sense of accomplishment.

Community and Sharing:

Many bakers enjoying the process of sharing starters, recipes, and tips. Online forums and social media platforms have communities dedicated to sourdough, helping to spread interest and knowledge.

Sustainability:

Sourdough baking promotes sustainability. The ability to create a starter that can live and be productive indefinitely, reducing the need for commercial yeast, aligns with zero-waste lifestyles.

Moving back to sourdough parties and multi-level marketing, in this video I share part of an MLM company promoting them if you’d like to watch, it’s at the 7:39 time stamp. But you don’t have to watch to continue below with some of the concerns about this kind of event.

Here are some key issues of using sourdough wellness parties for MLM events:

  • Misleading Use of Social Gatherings: In the examples I’ve seen, they typically portray the events as educational workshops focused on learning and skill-building, however, the underlying purpose is to recruit attendees into an MLM scheme or to sell MLM products. This bait-and-switch tactic can be seen as deceptive. Attendees might believe they are coming for education and community engagement, not a sales pitch. Or if they aren’t sold to there, they will be put on a list for follow-up and to drip content onto to get a sale down the line.
  • Exploitation of Personal Relationships: There is also the idea of using personal connections and the creation of new ones to ultimately further MLM business interests. This can strain personal relationships and may lead to exploitation of trust. People might feel pressured to buy or join because of their relationship with the host. Not necessarily because they believe in the product or business opportunity. These events often utilize personal connections. The organizers might encourage you to invite friends and family. They want them to come not just to learn, but to recruit them into the MLM business.
  • Manipulation of Community Platforms: Also, the use of platforms like Facebook to infiltrate community groups under the guise of shared interests (like gardening or local farming) with the ultimate goal of promoting MLM interests can be unethical. They infiltrate groups with shared interests in things like gardening, under the guise of community building, but the real goal is to promote MLM products. This is using community trust and platforms for personal gain under false pretenses.
  • Lack of Transparency: There is also a lack of openness about the real intent of the gatherings and online posts. There’s an ethical issue when the promotion of MLM products or the recruitment to the MLM is hidden. This only comes out after people have been drawn into the event.
  • Pressure and Unrealistic Expectations: MLM schemes often involve presenting overly optimistic outcomes as easily attainable.

These issues are worsened by the fact that most people in MLMs do not make profits. Many lose money. This is as per Income Disclosure Statements provided by corporate offices of MLM.

The strategy promotes gut health through sourdough bread at wellness parties.

But, it also raises more ethical concerns.

  1. MLM products are a potential risk to attendees: If the products are health-related, promoting them in settings like wellness workshops without clear proof of their benefits or without the right expertise could harm people’s health.
  2. Misrepresentation of Health Benefits is a risk: If distributors are not qualified health professionals, they might give wrong or misleading information about sourdough bread’s benefits. Sourdough can be easier to digest and may offer some health benefits from its fermentation. But, overstating these benefits to sell products or recruit for an MLM can be wrong. This is particularly sensitive if claims are made that sourdough can significantly improve gut health or replace medical treatments for digestive issues.
  3. Targeting Vulnerable Populations: Using gut health as a selling point might attract individuals with chronic digestive issues, such as those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease, or other gastrointestinal disorders. Targeting vulnerable individuals with health promises can exploit their desire for relief.
  4. Misrepresentation: Attendees might think the information is purely educational and in their interest. They don’t see the commercial intent behind it. This misunderstanding can undermine informed decision-making by consumers.

To address these issues ethically, MLM distributors should be open about the commercial intent of their workshops.

If you want to get into sourdough bread-making without any ties to multilevel marketing, the King Arthur Baking Company has a great, simple, and complete guide. This resource is packed with detailed instructions, helpful tips, and troubleshooting advice. You can check it out at King Arthur Baking – Sourdough Guide.

Lastly, I think it’s amazing that a generation of people were taught to avoid bread now bake it. I still think while many have embraced sourdough, there is still some food policing around other types of bread. 

Just be mindful if you get invited to a sourdough party…it could be a great community event…or a ploy to get you as a downline in someones MLM.