Nature’s Own & Wonder Owner Restructuring Under New Brand Chief & President

Lisa Johnston
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Flowers Foods is consolidating business units in order grow its brands, improve operations and more heavily focus on product innovation.

The producer of the Nature's Own, Wonder, Tastykake and Dave's Killer Bread brands has tapped Mark Courtney to serve as chief brand officer of the consolidated fresh packaged bread and specialty/snacking business unit. Previously president of the fresh packaged bread unit, Courtney will be responsible for managing all Flowers brands, as well as its revenue management, in-store and online promotional shopper marketing, and brand partnership programs. He's been with the company since 1983. 

David Roach, who was previously president of the snacking/specialty unit, will take the helm as president of cake operations, a new position, and Flowers Foods’ foodservice business will be repositioned from the snacking/specialty unit to the sales function. Chief sales officer Keith Wheeler will continue to lead this area.

The Thomasville, GA-headquartered company has also established a stand-alone innovation function, to be led by chief marketing officer Debo Mukherjee. In addition to guiding product innovation beyond line extensions, Mukherjee will partner more closely with Flowers’ corporate development group to seek out acquisition and investment opportunities, as well as improve the profitability of the cake bakery business.

As part of these changes, the company has also eliminated about 250 positions across multiple departments and roles.

The changes are being implemented alongside a revised portfolio strategy, which the company completed after an organizational review conducted over the past two quarters as part of a portfolio optimization initiative. Uniting the brand teams under Courtney is intended to both facilitate collaboration and better allocate resources among the portfolio, said Ryals McMullian, Flowers Foods' president and CEO.

“We believe that these changes are more consistent with our strategic priority to focus on our brands and that they will bring a more structured approach to innovation,” McMullian said. “This will enable us to build on the strengths of our brands and bring our customers and consumers more new and exciting products."

Flowers reported a 6.8% sales increase in its fiscal first quarter in May, to $1.35 billion. It attributed 6.5- 7.5% of this increase to the COVID-19 pandemic, with branded retail sales growing 17.7% to offset non-retail and other sales declines of 15%.

In providing preliminary Q2 results, which ended July 11, the company expects net sales to increase approximately 4.5-5% over the prior year period. Final results will be shared Aug. 6.

In addition to selling direct-store-delivery (DSD) through a network of independent distributors to retail and foodservice customers, Flowers also produces items for national retail, foodservice, vending and co-pack customers through a network of warehouse channels, primarily under the Canyon Bakehouse, Mrs. Freshley’s, Alpine Valley Bakery and European Bakers brands.

The company, which reported $4.1 billion in sales in 2019 and employs about 9,700 people, also sells under such franchised and licensed trademarks and trade names as Sunbeam, Bunny and Sara Lee.