THOMASVILLE, GA. — Wonder, Merita, Home Pride and Butternut bread returned to grocery store shelves across the country beginning Sept. 23. Flowers Foods, Inc. acquired the brands, 20 baking plants and other “bread assets” for $355 million from Old HB, Inc. (formerly Hostess Brands) in July. The brands have been off the market since Hostess declared bankruptcy in November 2012.
“We’re thrilled to be baking these wonderful breads and know that millions of consumers will be smiling when they find their favorite back in their grocery store,” said Keith Aldredge, vice-president of marketing for Flowers. “We are using the same recipes and paying close attention to quality and freshness. We want these breads to be great from the very first taste.”
Flowers said the former Hostess bread brands are being baked at Flowers bakeries around the country and are available throughout the company's direct-store delivery (D.S.D.) market. Flowers’ D.S.D. market currently reaches more than 77% of the U.S. population in the East, South, Southwest and California.
“Where ever these brands were available before within our market area — they are returning,” Mr. Aldredge said. “We do not yet have national distribution, so these brands will not be available to all consumers. We are rapidly expanding our market and working hard to make sure everyone will be able to enjoy their favorite bread in the future.”
As part of the roll-out, Mr. Aldredge said Flowers is bringing back some classic packaging.
“We went into the archives and pulled packaging designs from earlier days,” he said. “We’re bringing back the classic Wonder and Merita logos and colors. We hope the nostalgic look creates happy memories for many and attracts new consumers with its retro appeal.”
For the Wonder relaunch Flowers is introducing Wonder Classic White, Wonder Whole Grain White and Wonder 100% Whole Wheat bread. Also returning are Wonder hamburger and hot dog buns, and rolls.
“Wonder has been a part of the American food scene since 1921,” Mr. Aldredge said. “Generations have grown up on Wonder sandwiches. It’s a classic.”
Citing the company’s own research, Allen Shiver, president of Flowers Foods, said during an Aug. 13 conference call with analysts that the Wonder brand has a 96% aided brand awareness in core markets.
“From a customer standpoint, food retailers are well aware of the power of the Wonder brand, which drove good margins for them and also once had the highest household penetration of any brand in the white bread segment,” Mr. Shiver said.
Mr. Aldredge said the Wonder brand initially will return to grocery stores throughout Flowers’ market area, including Baltimore, Boston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Va., St. Louis, San Diego, San Francisco and Tulsa, Okla.
Meanwhile, Merita, Home Pride and Butternut, bread brands with a strong regional following, also are returning to grocery stores within Flowers’ market area.
“While Wonder will be positioned as our national white bread brand, Merita, Home Pride and Butternut are great additions to our line-up of regional white bread brands, which already includes Sunbeam and Bunny,” Mr. Aldredge noted. “White bread consumers are very brand loyal, so each of our bakeries has a specific plan to ensure that we are offering consumers what they want.”
The reintroduction of the bread brands continues a trend of recent rollouts of the former Hostess brands. Earlier this week, McKee Foods Corp., Collegedale, Tenn., relaunched Drake’s snack cakes.