THOMASVILLE, GA. — A. Ryals McMullian has been named chairman at Flowers Foods, Inc. He will succeed George E. Deese, who will retire from the role after the annual shareholders meeting scheduled for May 25.

Mr. McMullian joined Flowers Foods in 2003 as associate general counsel. He later was promoted to vice president of mergers and acquisitions and chief strategy officer. In July 2018, he was named chief operating officer, with responsibility for executing the company’s strategies to drive growth and expand margins through cost savings and operating efficiencies under Project Centennial. He also had oversight of the company’s two business units (Fresh Packaged Bread and Snacking/Specialty), supply chain and sales. In addition, he maintained oversight of corporate strategy and ventures and communications. He moved into his current role as president and chief executive officer in May 2019. Prior to joining Flowers Foods, he was a corporate associate in the Business Practice Group at Jones Day.

He received a bachelor’s degree in finance and real estate, a master’s degree in business administration and a juris doctorate, all from Florida State University.

“We are pleased to announce the election of Ryals as chairman of the board of Flowers Foods,” said Benjamin H. Griswold IV, presiding director of Flowers’ board. “His insights and keen business acuity have added tremendous value to the board since he joined in 2019. We look forward to his leadership as Flowers continues to strengthen its competitive position, deliver results and enhance shareholder value during its transformation to a national branded food company.”

Mr. Deese has been chairman of Flowers for 17 years. He joined Flowers’ sales department in 1964 and was promoted to higher levels of responsibility. He spent nearly 20 years as president and COO of Flowers Bakeries, the company’s core business. He also was the company’s CEO from 2004 to 2013.

“I am honored to be elected as the upcoming chairman and sincerely thank the entire board for their trust and confidence,” Mr. McMullian said. “I would also like to personally thank George for his steadfast guidance and valuable insights. I look forward to continuing to work closely with him and the entire board as chairman.”