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Shutdown of Hostess Brands Inc. not expected to impact supplies in Tri-Cities for Thanksgiving

Jan Hearne • Nov 16, 2012 at 10:22 PM

Hostess Brands Inc. moved Friday to shut down its operations, but the loss of products like Wonder and Merita breads will not affect bread supplies in the Tri-Cities this Thanksgiving, distributors and retailers said.

When asked about possible bread shortages, Randall Tipton, district manager for IGA, said, “I don’t think it will really affect us at all here. We’ll just carry on with the other companies.”

Flowers Baking Co. in Morristown, a division of Flowers Foods, is one of the companies supplying retailers in the Tri-Cities area.

Jess Maggard, president of the Morristown bakery, said his phone rang “off the hook” Friday with calls from customers expressing concern.

“Our goal is to make sure there isn’t a gap,” he said. “Between us and the rest of our competitors, we’ll make up the difference.”

Maggard said Flowers, maker of brands such as Bunny, Nature’s Own and Cobblestone Mill, is stepping up production to meet the need.

“There will be a normal Thanksgiving, let’s put it that way,” Maggard said.

Ron Bonacci, vice president of marketing for Food City in Abingdon, Va., was monitoring the news Friday. “I don’t know the effect it will have on us,” he said. “They’re a good company; I hate to see this happen.”

Bonacci expressed concern for the estimated 18,500 workers affected by the shutdown. “I feel sorry for all the people who are going to lose their jobs right here at the holidays.”

According to the Associated Press, Hostess Brands Inc. filed a motion Friday with U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking permission to shutter its operations. The move comes after the company said striking workers across the country crippled its ability to maintain production.

The company said employees at its 33 factories were sent home and operations suspended Friday, and its roughly 500 bakery outlet stores will stay open for several days to sell remaining products.

The wind down means the closure of 33 bakeries, 565 distribution centers, approximately 5,500 delivery routes and 570 bakery outlet stores throughout the United States.

On its website, Hostess informed suppliers “any orders in process are cancelled immediately” and “any product in transit will be or has been returned to the shipper.”

Johnson City Schools, through NETCO, a school food service cooperative in Northeast Tennessee, purchases Merita bread for school meals. Dr. Debra Brantley, supervisor of instruction and communications for city schools, said the system has a Plan B ready to put into effect, but did not elaborate on the specifics.

Washington County Schools shouldn’t be affected, Cynthia Tipton, assistant director of school nutrition, said. “EarthGrains has our bid.” EarthGrains is distributed by Hostess competitor Bimbo Bakeries USA.

It is still unclear how many jobs will be lost locally. Ray Carter, district sales manager for Merita in Kinsgport had no comment about Hostess Brands’ decision to halt operations. “I’d rather not say anything,” he said.

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