Celebrating Bud Cason

by Dan Malovany
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Albert L. (Bud) Cason
 
It didn’t take long for Albert L. (Bud) Cason to realize that it’s the little things in everyday life that make people happy. In fact, he was only a 12-year-old when he began his prestigious career in the baking industry — one that now spans more than 50 years — working for Greg’s Cookie Co., Birmingham, AL, which his relatives owned in the 1950s.

“Some children grow up in ballparks, but my father grew up in a bakery,” noted Albert L. (Al) Cason Jr., who has followed in his dad’s footsteps working in the industry. “As a young child, he swept floors, loaded trucks and helped in the mixing room of his aunt’s bakery. He told me he found it fascinating that bags of ingredients would come in and cookies would go out. The fire in his belly for the industry began then.”

Throughout his career, Mr. Cason also proved that a little effort can also make big things happen. It didn’t matter if it involved mortgaging his home to purchase his aunt’s bakery in 1970 to save it from going into bankruptcy or working with local banks to buy Bishop Baking Co. in Cleveland, TN, another struggling business, to help out friends in the industry.

Eventually, after selling Greg’s Cookie Co. and Bishop Baking in 1986 and fulfilling a five-year non-compete clause (a period that family and friends all acknowledge was one of his most “miserable” times of his life), Mr. Cason fulfilled a life dream when he founded Bud’s Best Cookies in 1991 and began producing bite-sized cookies in suburban Birmingham. In fact, he built one of the most automated cookie plants in the nation, investing millions in state-of-the-art equipment.

Over the years, Mr. Cason arguably invented — if not defined — the mini-cookie segment, transforming it from a niche market as his Hoover, AL, business grew from $1.8 million in its first year to more than $33 million in 2016. “At almost 60, he had most of his money in his new business; however, because he had the fire in his belly, he wasn’t scared,” recalled Al Cason, who, like his father, grew up doing everything in the bakery. He currently serves as the company’s president and COO while Bud Cason, now 79, remains CEO and sole owner of Bud’s Best Cookies.

With the thriving business, Bud Cason also changed the face of the private-label cookie market by successfully supplying some of the industry’s largest companies with mini cookies. After several expansions and consistent investments, the facility and its 175 employees today turn out more than 1 million cookies an hour, including conventional-sized ones sold under the Uncle Al’s brand.

Bud Cason, however, is almost better known for his contributions to the industry. He was a founding member of the Cookie and Snack Bakers Association (CASBA) 40 years ago and remains a ceaseless supporter. CASBA named him Man of the Year, and the association gave him a lifetime achievement award along with his friends Arthur Veazey, past president of Bishop Baking, and Craig Parrish, CASBA’s executive director. He also serves as a board member of the Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers’ Association.

Locally, Bud Cason has been honored by the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. Bud’s Best was named Business of the Year by the Leadership Association of Shelby County, AL. In 2014, Positive Maturity magazine named him one of the Top 50 Over 50.

And then there are the countless number of things that he has quietly done to help his church and its school, where he’s served as chairman of the board for decades. He’s assisted in advancing the careers of his employees through funding for their training and education. He has served on the boards of a local bank and the Southern Adventist University. He supports the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Crimson Tide Foundation. At home, his dedicated family includes Gail, his wife of 54 years, and his son, two daughters and five grandchildren.

In business, it’s not about being the biggest. Instead, as Mr. Cason has demonstrated, it’s about being one of their best “buds” in the world. For all of his accomplishments, he joins the 2017 class of the Baking Hall of Fame.
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