Flowers Foods has become one of the largest producers of fresh baked goods in the United States. Headquartered in Thomasville, Flowers Foods began as a local provider of fresh bread and grew to become one of the largest bakery operations in the nation. Flowers had sales of more than $2 billion in 2007, and its products, including several well-known brands of bread, are distributed nationally.
Growth and Diversification
During this time Howard ran the bakery, leaving the ice cream business to Joseph. When Howard died in 1934, his son Bill, twenty years old and a recent graduate of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, took charge of the company. Although the nation was in the middle of the Great Depression, the Flowers bakery survived and even managed to expand its operations. In 1937 it acquired an existing bakery in Tallahassee, Florida. The demands of World War II (1941-45) soon had the Flowers bakery operating at full capacity, providing bread to military camps throughout the Southeast.
In 1942 the Flowers bakery became a member of the Quality Bakers of America (QBA), a baking industry cooperative.
During the 1960s the Flowers Baking Company purchased bakeries in Opelika, Alabama, and Panama City, Florida. In 1965 the company built a new bakery in Jacksonville, Florida, and in 1967 Flowers broke into the important and potentially lucrative metropolitan Atlanta market with the purchase of the Atlanta Baking Company.
To generate the necessary capital to fuel further growth, the company went public in 1968 and changed its name to Flowers Industries Inc. Stock sales brought in more than $2 million and ignited
Starting in the 1990s, Flowers Industries underwent a series of changes. The most significant year was 1996, when the company purchased the national Mrs. Smith's brand of frozen desserts and acquired the Keebler cookies and cracker company through a joint venture. By the turn of the millennium, the company had shifted its focus back to traditional bread and snack cakes. In 2001 the company sold Keebler, delivering $1.24 billion to Flowers shareholders. With this transaction, the company spun itself off into a new company called Flowers Foods. In 2003 it sold Mrs. Smith's Bakery.
Ed Lightsey, "Staff of Life," Georgia Trend, January 2009.
Christopher Allen Huff, University of Georgia
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