Penny intent on creating single B.B.U. culture

by Josh Sosland
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LAS VEGAS — After multiple acquisitions bringing together several different baking companies, Bimbo Bakeries USA needs to work to create a single, centralized organizational culture, said Fred Penny, president. Mr. Penny spoke on a number of issues related to B.B.U. and baking as a panelist in the E.L.D.C. Baking Industry Forum Oct. 8 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The American Bakers Association event was held during the 2013 International Baking Industry Exposition, which spanned Oct. 6-9. Panelists in addition to Mr. Penny included Paula Marshall, chief executive officer of The Bama Companies, Inc.; Miles Jones, co-chairman of Dawn Food Products; and Mike McKee, president and c.e.o. of McKee Foods Corp.

Having grown to be the largest baking company in the United States, B.B.U. is focused on effectively bringing together executives with a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives, Mr. Penny said.

“We’re a company that in the United States with Grupo Bimbo has grown quickly through acquisitions,” he said. “I’ve come to realize that we are a company with people who have come from many places.”

Bimbo as a corporate entity is a relative newcomer to U.S. baking. B.B.U. was created in 1994 when Grupo Bimbo S.A.B. de C.V. acquired La Hacienda, a California tortilla company. Later in the 1990s, B.B.U. acquired Pacific Pride Bakeries of San Diego and Mrs Baird’s Bakeries, one of the nation’s largest regional baking companies. In 2002, B.B.U. acquired the western U.S. baking business of George Weston Ltd. and seven years later acquired the eastern portion of the business. Most recently, B.B.U. in 2011 acquired the North American Fresh Bakery business of Sara Lee Corp. The Weston and Sara Lee businesses itself were amalgams of many different baking companies that were accumulated over many years through numerous acquisitions.

“Our people come from different organizations, different backgrounds, different corporate structures — some centralized and some decentralized,” Mr. Penny said. “It’s obviously a large company. So, we’re trying to create, as all companies want to do, a culture, and a certain way of working around mission, vision, values etcetera. When you have so many associates from so many backgrounds, that’s not easy.

“One of the major pieces of work we have is figuring out how to do that, and getting everyone on the bus. It’s critical over our next 5 to 10 years or longer. We can buy equipment. We can build bakeries. We can do all those things, but its’ really about having the right people in the organization clearly committed to what we are trying to accomplish.”

(More extensive coverage of each E.L.D.C. forum participant’s remarks will be published in upcoming issues of Milling & Baking News and Baking and Snack magazines.)

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