2015 Baking Hall of Fame

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On March 2, 2015, the American Society of Baking inducted eight individuals into the Baking Hall of Fame. These gentlemen are pillars of baking and their contributions have helped shape the industry for generations to come: George E. Deese, Flowers Foods; Don Dubois, AIB International; Kermit and Pete Murphy, Mother Murphy’s Laboratories; Gary J. Prince, Bimbo Bakeries USA; and Brett, Jonathan, and Ross Warburton, Warburtons.

The stories that follow tell of the perseverance, fortitude, and dedication that the 2015 inductees have displayed throughout their careers. Their vision is inspiring for generations to come as they have each grown their respective organizations into the largest and most recognizable within the baking industry. These men are role models to all for their competitive spirit, passion for baking, and numerous contributions to our industry.

The American Society of Baking thanks Sosland Publishing for assisting our mission in publishing this journal. We also thank the home of the Baking Hall of Fame, AIB International in Manhattan, Kas.

The Baking Hall of Fame was started in 2006 as a vision of then-A.S.B. chairman, Gary Brodsky, and has since inducted 66 of the most influential members of the baking industry. We invite you to visit Manhattan and to share in the inspirational stories told in the celebrated Baking Hall of Fame!

Competitors enter Hall together

Competition may be healthy. It may allow companies to grow. The hardest-working competitors may receive special recognition at the end of their careers.

Such is the case with the 2015 Baking Hall of Fame class. Each year the American Society of Baking honors individuals who have been leaders in the baking industry and have demonstrated innovation and entrepreneurial spirit by inducting them into the Baking Hall of Fame located at AIB International in Manhattan, Kas.

This year George Deese, executive chairman of Flowers Foods, Inc., and Gary Prince, who retired in 2013 as president of Bimbo Bakeries USA, entered the Hall of Fame together after working for competing companies for decades.

“We respect each other tremendously, and to me the great thing about America is that competitive spirit that is all over America,” Mr. Deese said in his March 2 acceptance speech.

Mr. Deese’s career with Flowers Foods began in 1964 when he joined the sales department. He served as president and chief executive officer from 2004 to 2013. During that time, the company grew from a regional baked foods company with annual sales of $1.5 billion to a company with annual sales in excess of $3 billion and access to 75% of the U.S. population, said Allen L. Shiver, current c.e.o. at Flowers.

Mr. Prince’s baking career began behind the wheel of a bread truck. He eventually was named president of Weston Foods. Starting in the mid-1990s, the U.S. baking business of Weston Foods over a 10-year period went from losing $30 million a year to generating annual profits of $300 million. When Bimbo Bakeries USA acquired Weston in 2009, Mr. Prince took over the combined U.S. business.

Mr. Prince reflected on his career March 2.

“Forty-one years later, things that were important back then in our business are really still important today,” he said. “I leave this industry feeling like I’m still on that bread truck, selling and competing each and every day.”

Competitors in the United Kingdom know the Warburtons name. The baking company formed in 1870 in a grocery shop in Bolton. Warburtons today is the second largest grocery brand in the United Kingdom, trailing only The Coca-Cola Co., according to The Grocer magazine. Cousins Jonathan, Brett and Ross Warburton, all part of the fifth generation of the family business, entered the Baking Hall of Fame this year.

The other two members of the 2015 class were trusted allies of bakers.

The late Donald K. Dubois contributed to the scientific aspects from the time he joined Doty Laboratories in 1944. He joined the American Institute of Baking (now AIB International) in 1978 and went on to serve as manager of technical assistance and later director of experimental baking and technical assistance.

Previous honors for Mr. Dubois include AIB Employee of the Year, the AACC William F. Geddes Memorial Award, the Wheat Quality Council Full Kernel Wheat Award and the A.S.B. Robert A. Fischer distinguished service award.

Brothers Kermit and L.M. (Pete) Murphy brought various flavorings to the baking industry through Mother Murphy’s Laboratories. The company began in the back of a drug store in 1946. Today, Mother Murphy’s serves multiple industries in more than 30 countries. Over the years the company has developed more than 25,000 formulas for flavorings.

David Murphy, son of Kermit and now president of Mother Murphy’s, spoke March 2. He said the baking industry is the only industry where people have friendly dinners with competitors and the next day go back to fighting for shelf space.

“Many of the baking companies here are friends with their competition, and I can tell you that’s unusual and a big part of what makes this industry special,” he said.

George E. Deese - Flowers Foods Inc.

Even though his track record of extraordinary business achievement would earn George E. Deese a position in the Baking Hall of Fame, it is the personal qualities of Mr. Deese that principally occupy the voluminous letters submitted in connection with his nomination.

Mr. Deese, the executive chairman of Flowers Foods, Inc., Thomasville, Ga., was elected as part of the Baking Hall of Fame Class of 2015.

With Flowers since 1964 when he joined the company’s sales department, Mr. Deese was successively promoted to district manager and then executive vice-president of the Flowers Atlanta baking plant, the company’s largest at the time. In 1980, Mr. Deese was promoted to president of the Atlanta bakery and then regional vice-president responsible for six baking plants in the Southeast. Between 1983 and 2002, he was president and chief operating officer of Flowers Bakeries, the company’s largest operating group.

He was promoted to president and chief operating officer of Flowers Foods in 2002 and then elected president and chief executive officer in June 2004. The title of chairman was added in January 2006. In 2013, he became executive chairman, a position he currently holds.

While Flowers is known as a company that has achieved slow, steady and impressive growth, the pace of change and accomplishment accelerated during Mr. Deese’s time as c.e.o., said his successor at Flowers, Allen L. Shiver.

“Under his exceptional leadership, Flowers continued its decades long-tradition of consistent sales growth through acquisitions, market expansion and organic growth in core markets,” Mr. Shiver said. “While serving as c.e.o., Flowers Foods grew from a regional baked foods company with access to 38% of the U.S. population and annual sales of $1.5 billion in 2004 to the second largest baking company in the country with more than $3 billion in sales and access to more than 75% of the population for its fresh baked foods. During his tenure, Flowers Foods created well over $3 billion for shareholders in increased market capitulation and dividends.”

Mr. Deese retired as c.e.o. at Flowers in May 2013 at the culmination of an eventful period at the company. After acquiring the Sara Lee and Earthgrains brands in California from Grupo Bimbo in February 2013, Flowers emerged as the successful bidder for most of the bread business of Hostess Brands, giving Flowers ownership of the most famous bread, nearly two dozen additional baking plants and greatly increasing the company’s distribution reach.

Mr. Deese also worked hard for the baking industry, having served as chairman of the American Bakers Association and for many years on the A.B.A. board.

Kent Van Amburg of the American Society of Baking identified another key contribution of the honoree.

“The most illustrative example of Mr. Deese’s dedication and commitment to bettering the baking industry was his vital vision and leadership in the formation of the Grain Foods Foundation 11 years ago, at the height of the Atkins low carb diet craze,” Mr. Van Amburg said.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Deese expressed appreciation to his Flowers colleagues as well as his family for their support and encouragement “as I moved my family from state to state to state to state” following new opportunities for Flowers Foods. Mr. and Mrs. Deese are the parents of 4 and grandparents of 10.

Throughout his career, Mr. Deese was known for his warm, engaging manner. In a letter to the Hall of Fame committee, Dale Sheller, an account manager with AMF Bakery Systems, Richmond, Va., recalled an episode that was echoed in other letters and the experience of legions of others in grain-based foods. Mr. Sheller was calling on the chief engineer at a Flowers baking plant.

“George entered the lobby heading to the exit,” Mr. Sheller recalled. “I had seen George before, but we had never been introduced. But he stopped, put out his hand and introduced himself. That conversation while not being long was both encouraging and welcoming, and when he said he looked forward to seeing me again and ‘Thank you for being here,’ he meant it.”

William McCurry, a longtime ingredient executive, recalled a year in which the annual Allied Trades of the Baking Industry breakfast at the American Bakers Association annual meeting was about to start and it was realized that the opening invocation — a longstanding tradition at the event — had not been assigned.

“I looked to George in a panic and asked him if he would please start the proceeding with a prayer,” Mr. McCurry said.

Mr. McCurry said that with no preparation, Mr. Deese stepped up to the microphone and delivered a heartfelt prayer that launched the program and the entire convention with focus and dignity.

“I will never forget that simple gesture and the words so thoughtfully chosen with no notice,” Mr. McCurry said. “That exemplifies the George Deese that I and many others know.”

Throughout his career Mr. Deese was an articulate advocate for freedoms and economic opportunities he said were too often taken for granted.

“America is a great country,” Mr. Deese said in a presentation at the 2001 Milling & Baking News Purchasing Seminar. “As part of the food industry, we should be proud that America has the lowest percentage of disposable personal income spent on food of any industrialized nation. From 1970 to 1996, the percentage of income spent for food decreased from 14% to 11%. Worldwide, in 160 countries, more than 40% of the average per capita income is spent on food. In many industrialized nations, consumers spend over 20% of their yearly income on food. A fifth century proverb says, ‘The nation with too much bread has many problems: The nation with too little bread has only one problem.’ That Americans have abundant bread and great value on food they buy is a compliment to the people in this room and to our economic system. Let’s not take it for granted.”

Donald K. Dubois - AIB International

It’s the rare teacher who gets to instruct students in subjects whose science he pioneered. Although Class of 2015 Baking Hall of Fame honoree Donald K. Dubois found his calling in education 30 years into his career, he contributed strongly to the scientific aspects of baking from the day he joined Doty Laboratories in 1944 as a new Kansas State graduate in milling and baking chemistry.

From vital wheat gluten and icing stabilizers to emulsifiers and wheat starch, there was hardly a bakery ingredient, formula or process in which he wasn’t the “go to” expert, said Theresa Cogswell, principal, BakerCogs, Olathe, Kas., and a member of the American Society of Baking (A.S.B.) Baking Hall of Fame Evaluation Committee.

James L. Vetter, Ph.D., retired technical vice-president of AIB, worked closely with Mr. Dubois for 20 years.

“He was so knowledgeable, but more than that was his willingness to share that information with others,” Dr. Vetter said. “In addition to his regular responsibilities, he often would fill in as an instructor at the school of baking, sometimes for weeks or even longer. He shared his knowledge with his students and the staff. Maybe his greatest legacy was sharing in technology transfer worldwide for the betterment of people in the baking industry. He traveled to 21 different countries.

“For me, he was not just a colleague at work. He was a real friend. We both retired 17 years ago, but we continued to get together regularly. That’s unusual in business.”

At Doty, Mr. Dubois rose to the position of chief chemist, a position he then took at Crete Mills in 1951. Four years later, he joined Hercules, Inc., where he held management positions in the cellulose and protein products divisions, supervising technical service. It was here that he started writing technical bulletins and articles. From 1966-78, he worked at ITT Paniplus becoming the company’s technical marketing manager.

Bringing the experience of a long career in bakery ingredients, Mr. Dubois joined AIB in 1978 as manager of technical assistance and was later named director of experimental baking and technical assistance. In this role, Mr. Dubois became known as the “Ann Landers of the baking industry,” one colleague said.

His overseas travel included China and the Soviet Union. In 1979, he launched the AIB Research Department Technical Bulletin with a report on English muffin technology and served as its editor until he retired in 1987. But his work didn’t end then. In 1989, he compiled AIB’s “Glossary of Bakery Terms,” which defines more than 1,400 baking related words. He also helped prepare a database to assist bakers in meeting mandatory nutrient content labeling. Accepted by the Food and Drug Administration, the AIB database allowed bakers to quickly calculate values for the Nutrition Facts Panel without waiting months for lab analysis.

Official recognition for Mr. Dubois’s achievements include AIB Employee of the Year in 1983, the AACC William F. Geddes Memorial Award in 1985, the Wheat Quality Council Full Kernel Wheat Award in 1986 and the A.S.B. Robert A. Fischer distinguished service award in 2004.

In addition to presenting five technical papers at A.S.B.’s meetings, he served the group as its 1972 program chair and chairman of its publication committee from 1972-78 and was a 50-year member.

Accepting the Baking Hall of Fame award on their father’s behalf, Norman Dubois and Jean Goodman reflected on his career.

“If Dad were here, he would have been extremely pleased and proud of his induction into the Hall of Fame,” Ms. Goodman said. She said her father’s job at the AIB was his “dream job,” and said that growing up she and her 11 siblings didn’t realize “how much dad excelled in his profession.”

With a 20-year range between the ages of the children in the Dubois family, Norman Dubois said many of the children had different experiences with their father.

“Some of us perhaps have memories of Crete, Neb.,” he said. “Some of us have memories of Michigan. Others, it was Overland Park, Kas., and Kansas City, Mo.”

The children also alternated weekend outings with their father, with the 8 boys going on an excursion one weekend and the 4 girls going the next weekend.

“You’d usually find dad sitting on the sideline with his briefcase, with his work, and with his iced tea,” Ms. Goodman said.

She also said her father frequently brought home products for the children to test — bread, angel food cake and honey bun icing.

After retirement, Ms. Goodman said her father kept up with the baking industry through his memberships in professional organizations.

“He read every journal cover to cover right up until he passed away,” she said.

Mr. Dubois led a rich and full life outside the baking industry. He was an expert marble collector and the father of 12. He served as the family historian and genealogist. He died March 30, 2014, at age 93.

Kermit and L.M. (Pete) Murphy - Mother Murphy's Laboratories

The company began in the back of a drug store. It grew. Thanks to the innovation, customer attention and work ethic of brothers Kermit and L.M. (Pete) Murphy, it grew into a flavorings company involved in multiple industries. Today, Mother Murphy’s Laboratories, based in Greensboro, N.C., is active in not only the United States but more than 30 total countries.

Due to their efforts in bringing flavors to the baking industry, Kermit and Pete Murphy entered the American Society of Baking’s Baking Hall of Fame this year.

Although both brothers are deceased, David Murphy, Kermit’s son, now serves as president of Mother Murphy’s. He spoke at the Hall of Fame ceremonies March 2 at the A.S.B.’s BakingTech 2015 in Chicago.

Kermit and Pete Murphy, the sons of Albert and Agnes Murphy, grew up on an island in North Carolina. Albert was a fisherman during the summer and a hunting guide during the winter. Everything the family ate came from either the sky, the ocean or out of the ground.

“They were taught at an early age that hard work and honesty was all they needed,” David Murphy said of his father and uncle.

A doctor’s influence played a role in their association with baking. Richard Stelling, a physician in Greensboro, N.C., had made and sold food flavorings while attending the University of Georgia.

Kermit Murphy, then an insurance agent, and Dr. Stelling became business partners and sold flavorings to local bakeries. In 1946 a rented room in the back of a drug store served as an office. The partners had a small mixer to concoct new formulas and improve upon existing formulas.

Opportunity for company growth came in August 1947 when 14 investors helped to form Southern Laboratories. Over the years the customer base expanded from bakeries to the military, as fruit-flavored bases were used to make beverages.

In the 1950s the company began working on a vanilla product and introduced its first vanilla flavoring to the market in 1954. Since then the company has become known for its various vanilla flavorings. The company now has developed more than 3,000 different vanilla formulations.

Southern Laboratories incorporated in 1955 and changed its name to Mother Murphy’s Laboratories, Inc. Pete Murphy joined the company in 1958. The company outgrew a plant on Arnold Street in Greensboro and moved to a new building on South Elm Street in the 1960s.

In the 1960s Mother Murphy’s expanded into sweet flavorings and began producing an array of products for the food and beverage industries. In the 1970s the company began offering flavors for the dairy industry. The company now also offers flavorings for the tobacco industry and the pharmaceutical industry. The company added a Dallas baking facility in 1994.

Throughout its history the company has developed more than 25,000 formulas, 13,000 of which are active.David Murphy has led the company since 1994. The third generation of the family-owned business is active in marketing and sales.

While Mother Murphy’s is active in multiple industries, the baking industry is the only one where executives have friendly dinners with competitors and go back to fighting for shelf space the next day, David Murphy said.

“Many of the baking companies here are friends with their competition, and I can tell you that’s unusual and a big part of what makes this industry special,” David Murphy said March 2.

David Murphy said he remembered taking family vacations to an annual meeting of a Carolina bakers’ association.

People in the baking industry have memories of Kermit and Pete Murphy, too.

Craig Parrish, executive director of the Cookie and Snack Bakers Association (CASBA), said in a letter that he once was chief financial officer for a struggling, family-owned bakery trying to get credit. Kermit Murphy worked out special terms to help out until the bakery reached a profitable position.

“All during that time, our business posture was never mentioned,” Mr. Parrish said. “We were treated as if our credit rating was AAA.”

Kent Byrom, vice-president of Carolina Foods, Inc. in Charlotte, N.C., said in a letter, “Kermit was always an ambassador for the baking industry.”

Kermit Murphy, known for his tailored suits made of loud fabric, served as president of the Allied Trades of the Baking Industry in 1968. In 2002 he received man of the year awards from the CASBA and the Food Marketing Education Council.

Pete Murphy, possessing business and organizational skills, preferred to stay behind the scenes. He passed away on April 15, 1984.

Pete Murphy also belongs to another hall of fame. Although he had never played football before, he went out for the team upon entering Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C. Thanks to the strength he gained from years of pulling fishing nets with his fisherman father, Pete Murphy excelled at football, eventually making Guilford College’s sports hall of fame.

Kermit Murphy eventually moved to West Palm Beach, Fla. He held memberships in The Beach Club, The Everglades Club and The Old Guard Society, all of Palm Beach, as well as the Mid Ocean Club of Bermuda. Kermit Murphy passed away on Sept. 28, 2008, at the age of 91.

Kermit Murphy and Mother Murphy’s in 2014 were given a lifetime achievement award recognizing five decades of support and leadership to the CASBA organization.

The CASBA and the Murphy family also offer a Kit Murphy Memorial Scholarship in honor of the late Kevin “Kit” Murphy Jr., Kermit’s son and David’s brother.

David Murphy paid tribute to other 2015 Baking Hall of Fame honorees in George Deese of Flowers Foods, Inc., Gary Prince of Bimbo Bakeries USA, the late Don Dubois of AIB International, and Jonathan, Brett and Ross Warburton of Warburtons Ltd. in the United Kingdom.

“For Pete and Kermit to be included in this group is a great honor,” David Murphy said. “The A.S.B. is recognizing business professionals that exemplify the creed, if you work hard and are honest and give back to the industry, you could be successful.”

Gary J. Prince - Bimbo Bakeries USA

By the time he retired in 2013 as president of Bimbo Bakeries USA, Gary J. Prince was running the largest baking business in U.S. history. Still, in efforts early in his career, while leading a beleaguered regional baking business, several baking executives saw the spark that earned Mr. Prince his nomination and election to the Baking Hall of Fame.

“Gary and I have a long professional history, and I recall his skillful guidance to resurrect Stroehmann Bakeries into a flourishing business,” said John Paterakis, president of H&S Bakery, Inc., a 2007 inductee into the Baking Hall of Fame.

In the formal nomination proposal of Mr. Prince to the Hall of Fame, this period of his career — the mid-1990s, just after he was named president of Weston Foods, the Toronto-based parent of Stroehmann — also served as a starting point for his professional narrative.

“The journey began at Stroehmann Bakeries, at the time a struggling mid-Atlantic baker of mainly white bread and rolls that was losing money,” said Rowdy Bixby in the nomination. “After exploring a sale of the company and rejecting unsatisfactory offers, he vowed to turn the business around. He did so rapidly and with striking success, achieving profitability by 1996 by focusing on the core, eliminating waste and building a results-oriented culture of winning.”

For his part, Mr. Prince’s recollections in baking go back still further — 20 years earlier. The Ottawa native recalls his start in baking driving a 1959 GMC bread delivery truck when he first joined the baking industry. Before moving to the United States, he was president from 1984 to 1992 of Weston Bakeries, the Canadian baking business of George Weston Ltd.

In a 2004 interview, Mr. Prince said when he arrived at Stroehmann in Horsham, Pa., in the early 1990s, Weston’s U.S. baking business was losing $30 million in the mid-1990s on sales of $300 million. Ten years later, the division was generating annual profits of $300 million on sales of $3.5 billion.

In the interim, Weston expanded regionally and then over a much larger geographic area. Mr. Prince engineered the acquisition of Maier’s Bakery in 1998, helping build scale for the Weston U.S. business and giving the parent company great confidence it could become a much larger player in the United States.

In a discussion with investment analysts in late 2000, W. Galen Weston, chairman of George Weston Ltd., said the U.S. business had “done superbly well.” He concluded by telegraphing his company’s U.S. ambitions.

“The two messages I want to leave you with — we are winners and we are growers,” he said.

Only two months later, Weston was successful in a $1.8 billion bid for the Bestfoods Baking business that had been put up for sale by Unilever P.L.C., and Mr. Prince was put at the company’s helm. Weston quickly sold the western part of the Bestfoods baking business to Bimbo Bakeries USA and focused on the eastern markets, renewing the company’s aging assets and marketing the newly-acquired brands in those areas, including Entenmann’s, Thomas’, Arnold and Brownberry.

While Mr. Prince had to navigate challenges facing the greatly expanded Weston baking operation in the early years, particularly during the Atkins diet craze around 2004, the business was growing rapidly in 2009 when it was acquired by B.B.U.

“Especially worthy of note was his (Mr. Prince’s) focus on the growth of the big box discounters (notably Wal-Mart) and his investment in and commitment to serving them,” Mr. Bixby said. “Bestfoods had been well-aligned with traditional supermarkets but was significantly underrepresented in the new formats.”

At B.B.U., Mr. Prince was put in charge of the combined U.S. business.

“He was now president over a national baker and part of the largest baking company in the world,” Mr. Bixby said. “What followed was an intense three years working on integration and transformation of certain segments followed by the acquisitions of the Sara Lee Fresh bakery business in 2011. Gary Prince was now responsible for a $6 billion business with service to every city, village and town in America. The business consisted of 71 bakeries and almost 14,000 routes. This combined with the liquidation of Hostess in 2012 meant the industry had now been consolidated.”

Mr. Prince retired as president of B.B.U. in 2013 but was actively involved in the integration of Sara Lee and more recently played a role in the acquisition and integration of Canada Bread by Grupo Bimbo.

While employed as a manager of large pre-existing corporations over most of his career, from the time he began working to when he finished, Mr. Prince distinguished himself as anything but a mere caretaker.

“The entrepreneurial spirit that has characterized his career in the baking industry is an extraordinary example for many to follow,” said Daniel Servitje, chairman and chief executive officer of Grupo Bimbo. “His leadership and determination have made him one of the main actors in the consolidation of the fresh baking business in the United States.”

Ultimately, it may be more than just an entrepreneurial aptitude that explains Mr. Prince’s dramatic ascent in baking.

“I think bread is in his blood,” Mr. Paterakis said.

Reflecting on his decades in baking as he accepted his award, Mr. Prince shared a similar sentiment.

“Forty-one years later, things that were important in 1974 in our business are really still important today,” he said. “I leave this industry feeling like I’m still on that bread truck, selling and competing each and every day.”

Jonathan, Brett and Ross Warburton - Warburtons

 Over the past 135 years, the Warburton family advanced its business, growing it from a small wing of a grocery store in Bolton, England, into a successful wholesale bakery. But the fifth generation of Warburtons, the current leaders of the business, has made quite a mark of its own.

Three cousins — Jonathan, Brett and Ross Warburton — transformed Warburtons from a mid-sized Lancashire business into the second largest grocery brand in the United Kingdom, trailing only The Coca-Cola Co., according to The Grocer magazine. For their leadership in guiding that dynamic growth and the construction of high-tech bakeries, they were inducted into the American Society of Baking’s Baking Hall of Fame.

It was in 1870 that Thomas Warburton and his wife, Ellen, set up a small grocery shop in Bolton. Six years later, Mrs. Warburton started baking to fight off a slump in the grocery market. Her first batch — four loaves of bread and six cakes — sold out in less than an hour. Within two weeks, the couple renamed the shop Warburtons the Bakers.

The business began to grow, seeing its fastest expansion in the 1950s, when it acquired several northern England bakeries. That expansion continued into the 1970s, when the fourth generation of Warburtons welcomed royalty to the company’s centenary anniversary.

When the trio of fifth-generation bakers took over after their fathers’ retirement in 1991, Warburtons was already a successful, well-known brand, having become the largest bakery in the north of England in the mid-1970s. By investing more than $580 million over the past decade in building new bakeries, refurbishing others and upgrading distribution, this generation of leadership has pushed Warburtons to new heights. Those numbers include seven bakeries now operating with state-of-the-art technology, a bakery at Bristol that can produce 1.5 million products per week and a new bakery at Bolton that claims to be the most modern in Europe.

As a whole, Warburtons employs more than 4,500 people with a modest voluntary turnover rate of 5.16% per year. The company doubled in size during the past decade and jumped from third to first as the most popular bread in the U.K., according to London’s The Times. Warburtons is the first bakery in the U.K. to move into the baked snack category and the only company in the country to produce baked pita chips.

The company produces more than 2 million wax wrapped loaves, wraps, crumpets, pancakes and bread rolls a day — accounting for a quarter of the total wrapped bakery market, which is worth more than £2.8 billion a year. Warburtons also delivers to 18,500 retail customers each week.

Jonathan Warburton has been chief executive officer since 2001, overseeing the company’s transition into a national brand. He gained sales and marketing experience with Unilever before joining Warburtons at age 23. He progressed from national account manager to sales director and then marketing director, overseeing the development of Warburtons’ iconic ad campaign featuring family members. He later held the role of joint managing director and commercial director, laying out the three cousins’ strategy to take the business from a regional brand to one that is truly national. He received an honorary doctorate from Manchester University in 2003.

Brett Warburton began his professional career with RHM Foods after graduating from the University of Kent with a degree in economic and social history. He initially joined the family business as marketing manager for Warburtons before becoming factory manager at the Imperial Bakeries Ltd. (Bakewell bakery). He later attended Harvard Business School before returning to Warburtons, where he returned to Imperial Bakeries as managing director. He remained at Imperial for several years before transferring to the Warburtons bread division as general manager at the Pennine bakery.

In 1991, Brett was named joint managing director, operations, becoming sole managing director from 2001 to 2006, when he took on his current role of executive director. He represents Warburtons on the Council of Campden BRI — Europe’s largest member-owned food and drink research association, and has been vice-chairman of the organization for several years.

Ross Warburton began as an investment manager for Invesco after graduating from Oriel College at the University of Oxford. He joined Warburtons in 1985 and became executive chairman in 1991, serving in that role until stepping down in 2001. He continues to play an active role in the business while also having served as president of the Food and Drink Federation, where he promoted the interests of the U.K. food manufacturing industry in conjunction with government and other agencies. He has been president of the Bolton Lads and Girls Club since 1999, and has encouraged the growth of the group into the largest youth club outside London. He also is a director of OnSide, a charity formed to develop a network of similar youth clubs around the northwest of England.

“It’s really quite overwhelming,” Jonathan Warburton said in accepting the award on behalf of him and his cousins. “For a company that’s been doing it for 139 years, we’re actually not a business that spends any time talking about the past. Actually, what you’re really here for is the future.”

He attributed the success of the company to its employees.

“We can all buy the same kit and all buy the same ovens,” he said. “The thing that makes the difference is the quality of the people.”


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