From Left: Bill Mead, Connie Lane
Bill Mead and Connie Lane made Campbell Taggart Associated Bakeries the national bakery it was meant to be. In the 12 years under their leadership, Campbell Taggart grew from an agglomeration of regional baking businesses to the second largest baking company in the United States and with a growing international presence. With Mr. Mead’s and Mr. Lane’s guidance, Campbell Taggart, later renamed The Earthgrains Co., was restructured to control costs and improve efficiencies, which led it to become one of the most profitable baking businesses in the country with sales increasing from $31 million to $1.1 billion in just a decade.
Mr. Mead joined the Campbell Taggart team when he sold his family’s bakery, Mead’s Fine Breads, to the business. In 1970, he became chairman of the board and c.e.o. of Campbell Taggart. At the same time, Mr. Lane, who had been with the company since 1947, was named president.
This duo immediately sought to improve operations of the bakeries. They replaced the executive committee of subsidiary presidents with a more centralized organizational structure. Mr. Mead implemented a manager-training program and revised the company’s incentive program to include every employee, from route salesmen to the corner offices. Mr. Lane brought his cost-control analyst experience to the executive level and developed a system that allowed him to monitor the weekly profitability of each bakery. Through his system, Mr. Lane analyzed 60 products by a set of criteria such as pounds of waste per employee and number of unsold loaves. This attention to detail enabled Campbell Taggart to weather difficult seasons in the industry with the capital to invest in new ventures.
With the U.S. business securely centralized and efficiently operating, Mr. Mead and Mr. Lane turned their attention abroad. In 1971, Campbell Taggart embarked on a joint venture with Grupo Bimbo, Mexico City, to introduce American-style sandwich bread in Spain. The product was a success, and Campbell Taggart went on to launch similar ventures in Brazil. Under its French subsidiary, Europate, S.A., Campbell Taggart expanded its reach for refrigerated dough products, which it produced under a private label in the United States.
During Mr. Mead’s and Mr. Lane’s tenure, Campbell Taggart successfully answered marketplace demand for whole grain bread with the development and introduction of Earth Grains, a premium brand of whole grain bread and bakery products. Launched in 1975, the Earth Grains brand offset the decline in white bread sales.
In 1982, Campbell Taggart was sold to Anheuser-Busch for $560 million. After a lifetime dedicated to the industry and many contributions to the success of Campbell Taggart, Mr. Lane passed away Oct. 23, 2000, and Mr. Mead passed away April 17, 2006. Their leadership, Mr. Mead’s management program and Mr. Lane’s cost-control strategies helped Campbell Taggart become a leading baking company, took American sandwich bread and refrigerated and frozen dough global, and successfully dived into premium whole grain bread at the beginning of the whole grain trend.