Bob Alders: Man of vision

by Charlotte Atchley
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When people describe Bob Albers, CEO of United States Bakery, the word that often comes up is visionary, whether it’s discussing his approach for the company he so diligently expanded or his insights into the baking industry.

“I have known Bob Albers for more than 25 years and admire his business knowledge, his professional management style and his visionary talent that has grown this small Portland, OR, bakery into a regional powerhouse,” said Robert G. Miller, CEO of Albertsons, LLC, Boise, ID.

 “His ability to anticipate new trends and products and adapt to the changing business landscape has impressed me for many years,” said Lynn T. Gust, president, Fred Meyer, Portland, OR.

It was this mindset that led Mr. Albers to get off the fast track on the road to possibly becoming president of ITT Continental Baking Co., at the time the largest wholesale bakery in the US, and instead join a small family bakery. He told friend and soon-to-be colleague Ron McKnight, “I think I can do something with this company.” 

Mr. Albers certainly did something with Franz Family Bakery. When he joined the company in 1975, it was a one-bakery operation bringing in about $9 million a year. Today, Franz has nine locations and is one of the largest family-owned bakeries in the US. As for Mr. Albers, he’s now serving as CEO of United States Bakery. United States Bakery is the holding company of Franz Family Bakeries.

Mr. Albers got his start in the baking industry in 1972 as sales manager at ITT Continental in Sacramento, CA. He quickly became a regional bread sales manager, covering seven Wonder bakeries on the West Coast, and then general manager of the Wonder Bread Bakery in Portland, OR. Three years later, Mr. Albers found himself at a turning point in his career. He was set to move to Rye, NY, to become the national head of sales for Wonder Bread. All signs pointed to Mr. Albers being groomed for the top job at ITT Continental.

That was when Joe Franz, then president of United States Bakery, approached Mr. Albers about joining his team in the hopes that one day Mr. Albers would succeed him. With a vision to build up this small family business and a desire to keep his family in Oregon, Mr. Albers accepted the offer.

He was brought on as vice-president and general manager. In 1978, the company expanded its Portland, OR, bakery, and then the acquisitions started. The purchase of Snyder’s Bakery, Yakima, WA, in 1979 kicked off decades of United States Bakery strategically buying competing bakeries, expanding its reach geographically and diversifying its product portfolio, a game plan credited to Mr. Albers’ vision. His efforts even led to absorption of some plants of his former corporate employer.

“I have known Bob Albers for more than 25 years and watched in awe as he built the Franz Family Bakery into the position they enjoy today,” said Chip Klosterman, president, Klosterman Baking Co., Cincinnati. “Through his vision and dedication, Franz has shown tremendous growth over the years and holds the position as one of the premier independent baking companies in the country.”

Many of these bakeries are independent entities maintaining United States Bakery’s strong brand names: Franz, Gai’s, Snyder’s and Smith Cookie Co. These strategic acquisitions made Franz Family Bakery the leading bakery in the Pacific Northwest supplying grocery stores, foodservice customers, institutional accounts and frozen sales.

In 1986, Mr. Albers succeeded Mr. Franz as the leader of United States Bakery. Two years later, Mr. Franz passed away. In 2012, Mr. Franz was inducted into the American Society of Baking’s Hall of Fame, and this year, Mr. Albers joins him in honor of the work they did to build up the family business.
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