Deese: Flowers well positioned for baking landscape

by Eric Schroeder
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NEW YORK — Flowers Foods, Inc. is well positioned to flourish in the new competitive baking landscape, George E. Deese, chairman, president and chief executive officer, told participants at the Stephens Spring Investment Conference held June 2 in New York.

Responding to an analyst’s question on how Flowers stacks up in an industry that in recent years has seen Sara Lee expand in baking, Grupo Bimbo S.A.B. de C.V. acquire the fresh bakery business of George Weston Bakeries, Inc. and the emergence of Interstate Bakeries Corp. from bankruptcy, Mr. Deese said during the past 25 years Flowers has become a much bigger player and is more important to the supermarket and food service industries than ever before.

"I think we are very much needed for our product innovation," Mr. Deese said. "More importantly, to deliver great service to the customers. And our business model from independent distributors yields us that head-and-shoulders better service than our competitors, in my viewpoint."

Acknowledging that Sara Lee is a "good-sized company" and the combination of Weston and Bimbo is similar in scope to when Best Foods was in operation, Mr. Deese said he expects Flowers to be able to compete in the future, much as it did in the past.

"We competed against Ralston Purina, which is a big, major company, a lot bigger than Flowers Foods," he said. "We competed against Anheuser-Busch — they owned Earthgrains. And that has never been a problem because of the innovative products, and the great service, and the way we go to market has always stood this company in good stead."

Asked about the prospects of Interstate Bakeries Corp., Mr. Deese said the company "has always been a formidable competitor and they will probably be in the future."

"I think they still have a lot of things to work out as far as their whole operation is concerned," he said. "But I’m not really focused on them, except to say they are in the marketplace and they will be a competitor. But we have competed very well against Interstate.

"I would say they probably have less bakeries than is ideal. They closed a number of bakeries in our core markets over the years, and we have been able to add bakeries. I think that does give us a competitive advantage."

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