It’s an age-old question. What’s in a name? In deference to historical philosophers and bards of lore, the answer is simply “plenty,” especially when developing a modern-day corporate image that better communicates a new position in today’s highly competitive baking industry.
That’s why The Bakery Cos., formerly known as The Bun Cos., is rebranding itself as Crown Bakeries. It’s not that there was anything wrong with its previous straightforward nomenclatures. Rather, Cordia Harrington, chief executive officer, suggested that the new depiction of the crown reflects a cohesive image that impacts almost every facet of the fast-moving operation, and it has a nice bakery reference, as well. The rebranding goes live starting on March 1 on www.crownbakeries.com.
“The crown of the bun is the top. It’s the part you see when you look at a burger or a sandwich,” she said. “When you take that first bite, you know that the quality is there. We were looking to incorporate bakery terminology and send the message that we understand that we have been given a powerful responsibility to help our customers’ brands grow.”
During the past 16 months, the Nashville, Tenn.-based baking company has gone through an ownership change, an expansion of its senior management team and the establishment of loftier, longer-term goals that sparked the rebranding initiative.
Specifically, Chicago-based Arbor Investments recapitalized the business and took a majority stake in October 2019. The bakery’s founders, Cordia and her husband, Tom Harrington, remain invested, while Yianny and brother George Caparos, who collaborated with Arbor on a previous successful baking venture, also became partners.
In a short period, the new entity has made two strategic acquisitions: Steck Wholesale Foods, North Sioux City, SD, last March, and in Smyrna, Ga., with a laminated and sweet goods plant from Specialty Bakers in May. And more are likely to follow, noted Chris Tuffin, partner with Arbor Investments.
“We’re going to continue to be active on the merger-and-acquisition front, looking at businesses that add new capabilities and potentially adjacent product lines while also searching for new businesses that expand our footprint as a national platform,” he said.
Crown Bakeries’ product portfolio now includes fresh and frozen bread, buns, biscuits, English muffins, croissants and other laminated products, sweet goods, frozen dough and more. Yianny Caparos, president, pointed out the company’s latest acquisitions, along with spending tens of millions of dollars in new equipment and building a new thaw-and-serve laminated baked foods bakery in Nashville, allowed Crown Bakeries to take several steps toward achieving its vision of becoming the leading breakfast carrier provider across all food industry channels.
From a sales perspective, George Caparos, chief development officer, pointed out that the rebrand reinforces the company’s customer-centric focus to make everyone feel like they have a special status.
“We want to portray the customer as king,” he said. “We want to make sure that our customers know that we’re going to do everything and anything possible to give them the products they need.”
Operationally, Yianny Caparos said, it’s all about responding to requests “at warp speed” with its comprehensive and expanding product portfolio.
“It’s all about being flexible, nimble and quick to action. That’s our motto,” he said. “We want to treat everybody like royalty and make them the best at what they do.”
Currently, the company operates six bakeries in Tennessee, Georgia and South Dakota — and all have new titles under the rebranding initiative (See “Aligning the crown jewels of Crown Bakeries”).
“We want to make sure that our customers know that we’re going to do everything and anything possible to give them the products they need.”
- George Caparos, Crown Bakeries
“Under Crown Bakeries, it shows that we are all one team under a single name,” Cordia Harrington observed. “We want all associates to be connected together, even though they work in different states.”
The unification also shows how its various production facilities not only serve dedicated customers such as quick-service restaurants and other foodservice outlets but also in-store bakeries, convenience stores, retailers, contract manufacturers and foodservice distributors. Cordia Harrington indicated that its aspiration is to become one of the largest specialty baking companies in the country.
“When we receive a special request from customers, they just need to know that Crown Bakeries has the plants to handle whatever they need,” she said. “We react quickly and give them service like they’re the only customer that we have, and we handle things like a teeny-tiny business would — immediately. On the other side of it, we have the scale, power and the resources with the most automated equipment in the world, including the latest in packaging technology, to partner with the largest food companies in the world.”
It certainly didn’t take much time to form the new partnership. Cordia Harrington recalled the initial conversations occurred in June 2019 while dining during an American Bakers Association meeting with Yianny Caparos and Greg Purcell, Arbor’s co-founder and CEO, whom she had known for 20 years. Months later, the deal was completed.
“I learned about the details of their successful work together, and it was just magic,” she said. “They really understood the industry and the capital that’s needed to make the investments needed to keep the bakeries running smoothly, and to grow.”
The key, she added, involved having the resources to take Crown Bakeries to a new level while maintaining career advancement opportunities for its 700 employees.
“With this partnership, we have the best of both worlds,” Cordia Harrington said. “We have the capital that we needed, and we have the culture of taking care of our people.”
In addition to Arbor’s support, it quickly became apparent that the Caparos brothers and Cordia Harrington brought complementary strengths from an operations and customer service level.
“Cordia has so many different business relationships, and the relationships we have are different from hers,” Yianny Caparos said. “We fit so well together because we both bring a wider network of potential customers to the plate.”
Together, he added, the parties are aligned on where to take the new business and how to ambitiously grow revenues in the next few years.
“The common denominator between Cordia and all of us is custom baking for customers,” Yianny Caparos said. “We’ll make the investments in assets to partner with a national or global brand, and they know we’re putting everything behind it to make it successful.”
This article is an excerpt from the February 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Crown Bakeries, click here.