Think big. Dream bigger. To achieve those dreams in the baking industry, a trailblazer needs to cultivate a forward-thinking vision, build a winning organization around it and then make an unwavering commitment to create something that few ever imagined.
For Kenneth R. Newsome, that vision began at the University of Virginia where his modest goal was to operate a manufacturing company within the state — and the former four-year college football player never took his eyes off the ball.
Now, decades later, the American Society of Baking’s Baking Hall of Fame is recognizing Mr. Newsome, chief executive officer of the Markel Food Group, for creating the world’s largest manufacturer of wholesale bread and bun making equipment and a leading supplier of industrial baking equipment across the globe.
Mr. Newsome began building the Richmond, Va., company in 1996 when he and a group of investors acquired AMF Bakery Systems, a producer of bread and bun systems. From there, AMF acquired Campbell Systems, ETMW Enterprises, Pulver and Convey Systems, all of which bolted on expertise in everything from mixing to basket handling.
In 2005, Mr. Newsome partnered with Markel Ventures, a private investment firm that would provide the financial resources to transform the business into a global baking equipment powerhouse at a time when the equipment market was highly diversified.
After buying Shick Tube-Veyor Asia Pacific that eventually created a major strategic foothold in China, Markel acquired Solbern, a food equipment company, and BakeTech with its conveyorized ovens and proofer technology. Later, it bought Tromp Bakery Equipment, DenBoer and Vanderpol that provide systems for making European breads, pastries, waffles, pizzas and other baked goods.
Meanwhile, the purchase of Reading Bakery Systems added a global equipment vendor for cookies, crackers and baked snacks.
By 2015, Mr. Newsome’s vision of a multinational company that serves all segments of the baking industry was well on its way to taking shape and creating synergies among the different business units to provide turnkey services to the industry.
Robb MacKie, president and CEO of the American Bakers Association, noted that Mr. Newsome is also committed to building a stronger baking industry and has served on the boards of ABA, American Institute of Baking and BEMA, eventually becoming BEMA’s chairman. He’s long supported the Allied Trades of the Baking Industry, the Grain Foods Foundation, the American Bakers PAC and other industry initiatives.
“He is famously quoted, during some trying times for the industry, ‘If it’s good for bakers and the baking industry, it is good for us as suppliers,’ ” Mr. MacKie noted in a recommendation letter.
In another letter, Mike Phillips, vice president of engineering, Bimbo Bakeries USA, Horsham, Pa., described Mr. Newsome’s “desire to be the best business partner” for the 15 years they’ve known each other.
“Ken was in our Harrisburg, Pa., bakery on Christmas Eve to assist in trouble shooting an issue with the new bulk packer,” Mr. Phillips recalled. “That level of service is leading from the front.”
Additionally, Mr. Newsome’s nomination pointed out AMF’s extensive commitment to community service activities. It’s all part of a broader vision of corporate responsibility that he penned back in 1988.
“I know that I want to build a company that is special — special in the way it treats its employees, special in the way it treats its customers, special in the way it works to improve its community, special in the way it competes in the marketplace,” Mr. Newsome wrote. “It will be loved by those who are a part of it and respected by those who compete against it.”
This article is an excerpt from the February 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Baking Hall of Fame, click here.