Bakery distribution depot opens in Champaign

CHAMPAIGN — Aunt Millie's Bakeries, which supplies bread to stores including Meijer, has opened a branch distribution depot on Country Fair Drive in Champaign.

The Fort Wayne, Ind.-based company is best known for Aunt Millie's bread, but also bakes Soft 'N Good and Koepplinger's Recipe bread as well as Meijer-brand bread, said Melissa Dunning, the company's senior director of marketing.

Aunt Millie's other products include buns, rolls, English muffins and bagels.

The Champaign branch in the Parkview Business Center at 917 N. Country Fair Drive, C, is expected to have two sales managers and sales representatives for at least six routes, Dunning said.

Dunning said Aunt Millie's has expanded to include the Danville, Mattoon and Charleston areas and is preparing to enter the Peoria, Decatur and Springfield markets.

John Morrow, the branch manager in Champaign, said three routes are already in place for Danville and Mattoon-Charleston and others are likely to be added for Rantoul, Paxton, Gibson City, Mahomet, Decatur, Springfield and Bloomington.

"We're the initial starting point for expansion across central Illinois," Morrow said, adding that the routes are handled by independent owner-operators.

Aunt Millie's is trying to fill the void left by Hostess Brands following its bankruptcy and subsequent closure last year. Hostess marketed several bread brands including Wonder, Nature's Pride and Home Pride.

Locally, Aunt Millie's has added Wal-Mart, the Mahomet IGA and several smaller groceries, such as Ingold's in Fisher, to its list of clients, Morrow said.

Aunt Millie's has seven bakeries — one in Fort Wayne, Ind.; one in Sidney, Ohio; and five in Michigan.

According to the company's website, Aunt Millie's employs 1,600 people in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio.

The firm distributes its products throughout Indiana, Michigan and Ohio and recently expanded into eastern Illinois and northern Kentucky.

The company got its start in 1901 as the Fort Wayne Biscuit Co. One of its initial products was Perfection Wafers, and the company later took the name Perfection Biscuit Co.

In the 1950s, cookies and crackers were phased out, and the company concentrated on bread, becoming a Sunbeam bread distributor.

The company changed its name to Perfection Bakeries in 1990, and adopted the Aunt Millie's Bakeries name in 2005 to reflect its flagship bread brand.

It remains a family-owned company, with its president, H. Leslie Popp Jr., being a grandson of founder John B. Franke.

According to the company's website, the Fort Wayne bakery is one of the fastest in the United States, producing 200 loaves of bread per minute.

An Aunt Millie's bakery in Coldwater, Mich., produces an average of 800 buns a minute and supplies Wendy's restaurants throughout the Midwest with buns.

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