Expanded Flowers Baking Co. produces bread and jobs

06/11/2014 8:15 PM

06/11/2014 10:42 PM

Thousands of loaves of bread whirl around Modesto’s newly expanded Flowers Baking Co.

Its highly automated machinery now mixes, kneads, shapes, bakes, slices, bags and ships about 2 million pounds of baked goods each week.

Flowers’ $18 million investment in its southeast Modesto facility is paying off for the company and local workers.

A year ago, Flowers employed 70 people at that plant. But now, 221 people have full-time jobs there and an additional 121 independent distributors sell its bread throughout Northern California.

That’s the good news Flowers’ executives shared Wednesday while taking community leaders on a tour through the 250,000-square-foot facility. And they more than hinted there’s more expansion and hiring to come.

“We do have job openings,” said Danielle Schnepper, the company’s human resources director. She said they’re looking for folks who have teamwork skills and are willing to work varying shifts. “Bread is a living product, so you have to be flexible with when you work.”

Wages start at $13 an hour and go up from there. Current openings are for production, warehouse, maintenance and sanitation workers, and bakery production operators.

“We have hired some amazing people, really top-notch employees,” Schnepper said of those already on staff.

But not everyone who works there works directly for Flowers. Only 135 are the company’s employees, with 86 workers – called outsourced associates – employed by ABM.

ABM describes itself as “a leading provider of facility solutions.” Besides providing many of the people who work at the Modesto bakery, all of Flowers’ hiring is handled through the ABM website.

The Georgia-based Flowers acquired Fresh Start Bakery at 736 Mariposa Road in July, then expanded into the 150,000 square feet of additional leased space next door.

The old bakery produced only buns and rolls for food-service customers, but Flowers installed a bread line that can bake more than 10,000 loaves an hour.

Now the facility produces fresh breads and buns sold under the Nature’s Own, Wonder, Home Pride, Sara Lee and Cobblestone Bread Co. brands, plus buns for food-service customers.

“Nature’s Own is the No. 1 best-selling bread in the United States,” said Paul Holshouser, president of Flowers’ Modesto facility.

Flowers executives showed those touring the plant how there’s room to add more production lines and capacity for additional shifts.

Further expansion will depend on sales demand, Holshouser said, but he indicated there’s potential for Modesto to start producing some of the snack products Flowers now bakes in other states.

The Modesto bakery is the only one Flowers has in California, and Holshouser said it’s eager to grow its market here.

For more information about employment opportunities at Flowers Baking Co. in Modesto, go to www.ABM.com.

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