Is the U.S. baking market next for Guenther?

by Josh Sosland
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SAN ANTONIO — Even as C.H. Guenther, Inc. continues to expand its international baking business, the oldest flour milling company in the United States remains selectively interested in U.S. baking, said Dale W. Tremblay, president and chief executive officer.

“We keep looking, and we still will,” Mr. Tremblay said. “The challenge is that it’s a fairly robust market. It has picked up again. I don’t see us getting into the bread business per se. We’re always looking at what’s hot, what’s on trend.”

Mr. Tremblay spoke with Milling & Baking News days after San Antonio-based Guenther announced it has acquired three baking businesses in Canada: Golden West Baking Co., Gizella Pastry Ltd. and Les Boulangeries Rene, Inc. Both Golden West and Les Boulangeries Rene specialize in buns and English for the quick service baking industry and are suppliers to McDonald’s.

Guenther’s relationship with McDonald’s dates back to the early 2000s development of the McGriddles and grew significantly in 2005 with Guenther’s acquisition of three baking plants in the United Kingdom and Belgium from Golden West & Trousdale. With the creation of Guenther Bakeries Ltd., the company became a supplier of buns and English muffins to McDonald’s and other major quick-serve chains in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe.

Having achieved success with European acquisitions, the decision to bid on the Canadian business was an easy one, or at least easier one to make, Mr. Tremblay said.

 “We are already shipping product into eastern Canada, so it’s a natural extension of our U.S. business,” he said. “We had expressed interest in it before it came on the market. We very much like the management team and employees that came with it.”

Returning to the topic of U.S. baking, Mr. Tremblay drew a clear distinction between the kinds of businesses Guenther would and would not find attractive.

“We’re not looking into sliced bread or anything that is commoditized,” he said. “There still are a lot of carriers that are growing — flat breads, artisan. Gluten-free is a question mark for us.”

As to whether Guenther would consider establishing operations in additional countries, Mr. Tremblay said it was more likely that the company would seek to build on its base in the three areas it now operates: Europe, Canada and the United States.

“I don’t see us dropping a business into, say, Japan or China unless it would be large enough to give us a big base of business from the start,” he said.

A complete version of the interview with Mr. Tremblay, including his description of how Guenther was able to establish a relationship with McDonald’s after trying for many years, will be published in an upcoming issue of Milling & Baking News.
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