Alpha Baking acquires Natural Ovens

by Eric Schroeder
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CHICAGO — Alpha Baking, the largest baking company in the metropolitan Chicago area, announced it has acquired Natural Ovens Bakery in Manitowoc, Wis.

Founded in 1976 by Paul Stitt, Natural Ovens bakes bread, bagels, cookies, rolls, granola bars, cereals and mixes for distribution to retailers in the Midwest. The company’s product line includes Healthy Beginnings Oatmeal Bread, Carb Conscious Bread, Carob Chip Cookies and Brainy Bagels.

Mr. Stitt and his wife, Barbara Reed, ran day-to-day operations at Natural Ovens until January 2005, but still remained owners.

"We are pleased to welcome Natural Ovens to the Alpha Baking family," said Michael Marcucci, chief executive officer, Alpha Baking. "This acquisition firmly places Alpha Baking in the all-natural and organic bread market for retail, food service and private label markets. Additionally, this move provides Alpha Baking’s customers a wider spectrum of products and services; the acquisition is a sign of a strong future for Alpha Baking Co."

Mr. Marcucci noted that Natural Ovens will provide needed growth capacity for Alpha Baking, which distributes fresh bread in the upper Midwest and frozen bread across the continental United States. In addition the company makes the buns for Burger Kings across the U.S. and all U.S. military bases worldwide. The acquisition of Natural Ovens joins Alpha Baking’s two plants in Chicago and one in La Porte, Ind., that make products under brand names such as S. Rosen, Mary Ann, Kreamo and Golden Hearth.

"The natural products that Natural Ovens has become famous for, we don’t currently sell," Mr. Marcucci said. "This will fill a big void in our product lineup."

Mr. Marcucci said the product line and name will remain the same.

Natural Ovens experienced a 12% drop in sales from 2005 to last year, said Matt Taylor, c.e.o. of Natural Ovens. He said the company’s size hindered sales so they were hopeful the new owners will provide more opportunities and chances to increase production.

"As a smaller operation, it was a struggle for us to economically get our product to market on a large scale," Mr. Taylor said. "Being a bigger company, Alpha has more power behind them."

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