TUSCALOOSA, ALA. – Flowers Baking Co. of Tuscaloosa, a subsidiary of Flowers, Foods, Inc., will begin baking organic bread in the plant in the spring of 2016. Toward that end, Flowers said it will invest about $8 million on a new bread production line at the plant.
As part of the project, production at the baking plant will stop for about three months. Once the work is completed, the plant will bake Dave’s Killer Bread and Alpine Valley Bread, two brands Flowers acquired earlier in 2015. Tuscaloosa will be the company’s first organic-only baking plant in the East.
“This is a great opportunity for our bakery,” said Keith Singletary, president of Flower Baking Co. of Tuscaloosa. “We have a top-notch team and will work closely with experts from Dave’s Killer Bread and Alpine Valley to stay true to both brands’ unique production techniques and ingredient specifications. I am excited about our potential for growth in the years ahead.”
Flowers of Tuscaloosa has operated at its current location for almost 60 years, dating back to when the company was known as Hardin’s Bakery. Hardin’s was established about 1900, moved to its 15th Street location in 1956 and was acquired by Flowers in 1972.
The plant currently markets products under the Nature’s Own, Sunbeam and Tastykake brands. The company operates three other baking plants in Alabama – in Montgomery, Birmingham and Opelika.
Employees at the baking plant were informed Nov. 30 about plans to convert the plant and to cease production beginning in early January for about three months. Mr. Singletary said staffing levels at the plant when production resumes will be about the same as at present (about 225 employees).
The need for additional capacity to bring Flowers’ new organic brands to eastern markets was discussed by Flowers executives in October, during a webcast with investment analysts focused on the company’s acquisitions.
Asked specifically about bringing Dave’s Killer Bread to the Southeast, Bradley K. Alexander, executive vice-president and chief operating officer, said at the time plans were being formulated and that the introduction “certainly can happen in 2016,” an apparent reference to what became the plan to turn Tuscaloosa organic.
Since the acquisition, D.K.B. has remained headquartered near Portland, Ore., where it continues baking bread. Allen L. Shiver, president and chief executive officer of Flowers, said during the October conference call that the company was “excited about the production capacity Alpine brings to our organic business,” referring to Alpine’s two baking plants in the Southwest.
R. Steve Kinsey, executive vice-president and chief financial officer of Flowers, expanded on the production issues.
“Since the team at Alpine has excess capacity and organic baking expertise, we are confident production can be scaled to meet ever-growing demand for both the Alpine Valley and D.K.B. brands,” he said. “In the near term, leveraging D.K.B.’s current production at its bakery and through existing co-pack arrangements, we intend to begin expanding distribution of Dave’s Killer Bread in other geographic territories.”
The Tuscaloosa conversion may diminish D.K.B.’s dependence on co-packers for a proportion of production. Asked in October about outsourcing, Mr. Shiver estimated D.K.B. was using about half a dozen co-packers.
“I don't know the percentage of their volume but the majority of their volume still goes through their Portland facility,” he said.