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Disappearing Colonial Bread a Sign of Times

September 26th, 2009 · 41 Comments

By Garland Pollard

Colonial Bread

Our BrandlandUSA reader “JM” tells us that Colonial Bread is on deathwatch, and it may be in danger of disappearing due to its ownership by Sara Lee (NYSE: SLC).

Writes our dear reader:

Colonial, one of the South’s well known bread names, is now owned by Sara Lee.

Since Ms. Lee invaded the Colonial colonies, Sara Lee Bread has been appearing alongside – and displacing – Colonial as their primary brand (uh-oh).

Guess which line is getting more and more shelf space? Customer re-education is underway. Tonight, at the local Publix (still doesn’t seem right; it is located in an old Winn-Dixie – The Beef People left Atlanta), the Sara Lee bread was marked at a price lower than the Colonial loaves. Colonial is also getting somewhat harder to find. Most of the time, the Colonial King Thin can be found, but Colonial Old Fashion is getting hard to find at Publix or our Kroger stores.

We can see how. Sad things Sara Lee has done as it has grown its bread empire:

  • In 2002, Sara Lee closed a Memphis, Tenn. bakery open since 1930, according to the May 18 Commercial Appeal (See Sara Lee to Close Bakery in Memphis)
  • Closed a bakery in DeKalb County, Alabama 
  • Closed bakeries in Albuquerque, Chattanooga and Chicago

Frankly, we are ripping sick of these great old Southern brands going bye-bye. These companies, with their so-called marketing and branding “experts,” know nothing of regional traditions. They not only cannot understand the value of regional brands, but haven’t a clue how to extract the value in them. (Sara Lee is also selling off many of its non-food brands.)

They see regional brands as a liability, and the reality of the rebirth and success of a mayonnaise like Duke’s totally misses them. These companies do tricks that make readers think they are generous, then lay off workers in places like Alabama and give away money on national TV shows like Ellen to show off how great they are. This sort of business practice, which has become deeply rooted in American business, needs to stop.

White bread is a low margin, near commodity staple that provides regular, but meager returns. While there is money to be made in bread, we fail to understand how it can provide the long-term ROI that Sara Lee desires, except by one-time layoffs and cuts.

Sara Lee has three choices. It will likely choose number three:

  1. License the Colonial bread name as an exclusive “in house” brand to certain grocery retailers
  2. Use the Colonial Bread brand as a specialty brand next to Sara Lee
  3. Continue to alienate potential customers

In the old days, the federal government would be on Sara Lee like a hawk, making sure that there was no bread monopoly. Local pressure and a sense of decency would not allow C-suite folks to just lay off workers, willy nilly, when bakeries are purchased. Those days are over, and its now officially O.K. for large companies to fire long-term employees for a quick increase in profits.

In the old days, companies would be shamed that a CEO would make $15 million when it was underperforming, as Crain’s reported Sept. 17. Crain’s said that Sara Lee Corp. CEO Brenda Barnes’ compensation jumped 60% to $15.2 million for fiscal 2009 despite a 20% drop in the company’s stock price. The increase was due to $8.3 million’s worth of stock awards, compared with $3.4 million the previous year. That money would pay a lot of bread workers.

Strangely, Sara Lee, I think, believes that Jimmy Dean, the founder of its sausage brand, is not around. You can find nothing about him on the Jimmy Dean sausage website, which I think is weird, especially since the logo has his boots on it. Even more sad, Dean’s house burned down recently, with much of his life’s work. I hope that was of concern to the company that is doing so well by his name.

We believe in capitalism, but it doesn’t work when shame no longer has power over a society.

More branding stories of interest:

Getting rid of Joseph Abboud and Jimmy Dean
Sara Lee Doesn't Like Brylcreem?

Tags: Deathwatch · Grocery

41 responses so far ↓

  • 1 steven west // Oct 2, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    as a former resident of chattanooga,tenn. i always enjoyed colonial bread.i toohate to see these brands vanish form the american scene like so many others have.

  • 2 Anthony Hess // Feb 21, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    Hey, I found a couple old Colonial Bread trucks here in Georgia that back in some woods by the Rail Road tracks…

  • 3 Bobby Lott // Feb 22, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    I remember as a child growing up in Ozark, Alabama, that we would have teams of people dressed in Colonial Bread uniforms who brought highly trained police dogs to the school to perform. I have never been able to find out who these people were, or why Colonial Bread sponsored them. Does anybody else remember this? Thanks!

  • 4 Sherryl Cox // Apr 28, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    The Colonial Baking Company-My uncle used to work as a route supervisor out of the Atlanta, Ga. bakery. I believe it was on the east side of town, and had many workers. As a child, my classmates and I took a field trip to observe the bread being baked. I remember the long conveyor filled with loaves of bread going around overhead. I still have all kinds of memorabilia. Back in the 1950′s that was the only brand we ate. If it wasn’t Colonial, we would not eat it. As they say “Colonial is Good Bread.”

  • 5 Jack Jackson // May 14, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    As most of the people here in the south I grew up with colonial bread, and it was the only bread my family would buy. my grand mother lived just down the street in Atlanta from the bakery and I loved to go to her house just to be able to smell the bread being made. As I have grown and A family of my own Colonial was still (and still Is) the only bread we like. I don’t know if most of you have noticed but ever since Sara Lee has taken over the bread is not the same, the quality has went down hill bad. loves are coming out with holes all in the bread, bread not being sliced right and twist ties get put on half done and sometimes not even in the center. it seems like Sara Lee just doesn’t care about that brand anymore. I do hope that they don’t get rid of this brand and hope they bring back the quality we have always knowen and love.

  • 6 Chris Nelson // Jun 12, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Coloial bread was a very big brand name in Des Moines Iowa. We had a bakery near down town that closed several years ago. The large neon sign that was atop the bakery is still there! The city of Des Moines bought the bakery when they closed it and now is a central kitchen that prepairs meals for Des Moines Public Schools. The building is very old, but in fantastic shape. The city restored the old neon sign and it is lit some times. Travelers Insurance also has a large neon sign that was also restored after years of neglect, after the Travelers was bought out and moved. It is a large red umbrella. I thought that it would be fun to note that the Travelers neon sign, a red umbrella, was the insperation to a world famouse artist Clouse Oldenburg. He erected a very large umbrella scupture in Nolan Plaza.

  • 7 Patti Thieszen // Jul 28, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    My Dad worked for Colonial Bread in Indianapolis and retired from there after 34 yrs service. He has a metal colonial bread semi toy truck still in the original box. He wondered if it had any value. We have boxes of Colonial pencils among other Colonial goodies. I still have fond memories of getting warm uncut buns off the conveyor to eat and the smell. If anyone knows anything about the truck, please feel free to email me at : patti@tpcphoto.net thanks!

  • 8 Janie Massey // Aug 3, 2010 at 11:28 am

    I am so glad I found this site. I have used Colonial bread for many years. In the last few or more months, it became increasingly hard to find. Now I know why. I just got finished sending an email on the Sara lee site regarding taking Colonial off the market. I told them that whomever the DUMMY was that would allow this to happen is making a big mistake. And I told them that if Colonial disappears, I will NEVER buy another Sara Lee product and I really mean that. Thanks for the Info on your site about this ;-)

  • 9 Jean Johnson // Sep 6, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Have been to Wal-mart, Kroger, Food Lion and Piggly Wiggly, No Colonial Wheat Light. Apparently what is left there goes immediately. We do not like the Sara Lee Brand so are you or are you not making the White or Wheat in the light Breads?????????????

  • 10 Louise Green // Sep 23, 2010 at 7:15 am

    I wondered why I couldn’t fine Colonial Lite in the stores anymore. Now I know why. NO Sara Lee for me. Sorry.

  • 11 Lee Walker // Sep 24, 2010 at 11:32 am

    I am 75 years old. I was born and raised in Chattanooga TN. not far from the Colonial Bakery. My family only bought Colonial bread. After I married I started moving from state, Alabama, Florida, Virginia. In Virginia we were unable to find Colonial. Six years ago we moved to Knoxville, TN. We still cannot find Colonial. Since I found out Sarah Lee now ownes Coloniel and is closing all of Colonial bakeries, I have desided to not buy any of Sarah Lee products again. Yes Colonial was very good bread. Texture was the smoothest bread out there. Every thing else is course and nontasty. I give Sarah Lee failing grades on everything. Too Bad….

  • 12 john brooks // Nov 1, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    I have in the last year had the experience to purchas both Colonial bread and Jimmy Dean Sausage. BOth are now of low quality. What does this do for me? assume that now all Sara Lee products are inferrior and will not buy them any more.

  • 13 Vicki Jasper // Jan 8, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Does anyone know where I can find it and have it shipped to
    me? I grew up in GA and my dad used to drive a truck for Colonial.
    I currently live in Alaska and am having withdrawals from Colonial
    Bread and Blue Plate mayo!

  • 14 Charles Rivers // Feb 10, 2011 at 11:17 am

    SaraLee is now selling out to Bimbo Bread. Theyleave the bread out on the market to keep from having any returns so you may buying bread that is nearly a week old.In the 70′s i worked at the bakery in Nashville Tn and we carried what we called a hot trip in the middle of the day so we could have fresh bread on the market.

  • 15 Patrick G. // Apr 11, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Guys, I’m sorry. But it seems that Sara Lee doesn’t care about good ole traditional brand loyalty. Now, Bimbo has bought the bread side of Sara Lee. A Mexican based company. Do you think they care? No, they just want to make money. But there is still one company that knows about loyalty. This company that has been around for nearly 100 yrs. This company’s TOP Management has been in the business for years and knows about bread and knows about loyalty. That company is Flowers Baking. They continue to market Bunny, Sunbeam, Cpt. John Derst, Evangeline Maid, Mary Jane & Friends, Mary Jane, Aunt Hattie’s, and Holsum. These brands will never die off. Flowers knows the true meaning of these brands, still today.

  • 16 Richard // May 19, 2011 at 2:39 am

    Never say die. Aunt Hattie’s bread, my personal favorite, has now disappeared from most stores in Arizona. Now all that’s available are the inferior Sara Lee, “Natures Own”, “Natures Pride”, and Oroweat products.

  • 17 C. Terry Cline, Jr. // Jun 15, 2011 at 6:08 am

    Bobby Lott, the people who brought animals to the schools were known at the Colonial Bread Educational Exhibits, a public relations business owned by me. We went to all the schools, public and private in the bakery market areas, teaching as a public service. We didn’t talk about bread, we taught our subjects, which included felines (with an African lion cub, a Manx and Persian cat) reptiles with snakes, turtles, lizards and crocodilians, primates with a chimpanzee; anteater, sloth and armadillo (Xenarthra) etc. We won many educational awards for the work our teachers did. Ozark was one of the towns where we visited every year with a different animal group as the subject. Maybe you and I know one another from Pine Mountain Valley, Georgia, but evidently you’ve forgotten. Or was that your father? He almost came to work with us back in the early sixties. I’m pleased that you remember our work for Colonial Bakeries.

  • 18 Erica Etter // Aug 12, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    im just letting you know that my son is VERY sick from eating your bread. You have added MILK after 10 years OF NOT HAVING milk. I have been through a nightmare the last 2 days because he has been VERY ill (throwing up, face swollen, etc) and we have been to the doctor several times. When you add MILK or OTHER allergy products – you need to put it out in the public. Not on a tiny little bitty itsy label. I really loved your product bc i have a child that will DIE from eating milk. I pray that other mothers and fathers will pay attention after the 10 year switch to that tiny label. My fault because I trusted you, I guess.
    Erica Etter

  • 19 Robert Boyd // Oct 10, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Does anyone know where I can purchase Colonial Bread memoribillia. Also I am looking for an old Colonial Bread truck to restore.

  • 20 Ann Collins // Dec 6, 2011 at 5:53 am

    I have a Santa that is 57 years old. It was in a window display that Colonial Bread Company had in a small store in Montrose, Arkansas. I was raised on Colonial bread hate to see it go out of business.

  • 21 Bruce Hux // Jan 8, 2012 at 9:54 am

    I worked for Colonial Bread in Atlanta from 1976-1985 as a route salesman. My dad worked there from 1965-1992, retired and passed away in 1993.
    Colonial led the market as the best bread , and at one time made the best honey buns (coated with Krispy Cream glaze). When I was 10 years old, daddy would bring home a ‘caddy’ (12 in a box) that was still warm. A cold glass of milk killed 2 or 3 at a time!!

    Now I live in NE Georgia and the bread is no where near the same..

    Would love to have a pair of Colonial (is good bread) screen doors frome the 50′s- early 60′s ….

  • 22 LON Bergmann // Jan 10, 2012 at 10:32 am

    I worked for Colonial in the early sixties in Saint Louis,we were the best dressed routemen and the cleanest trucks in the city. Felt that it was the best run company that I worked for. Left to make more money for a potato chip company.

  • 23 Tina // Apr 30, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    I was shocked to see Colonial Old Fashion Bread on WalMart’s shelf this weekend!!! After the disappearance of this bread a few years ago, I’ve not found a semi close replacement for it. Sara Lee does not even compare to the great taste of Colonial… Is this bread being sold again???? Please tell me it is!

  • 24 Al // Aug 3, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Hi, I was born in 78 and my most memorable experience with Colonial Bread were those 3pack of doughnuts. Those were the best doughnuts ever. You could easily make a meal with them. hate to see such a good thing go away.

  • 25 Brenda // Aug 26, 2012 at 10:37 am

    What has happened to Colonial bread the last 3 loafs I have bought after a few days it starts to smell horrible and you can’t eat it. I have used this bread for years but it is horrible now. I like the super slices, but I have thrown away almost 3 loafs.

  • 26 Jenny Lackey // Sep 17, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    My great grand daddy, Hugh Wasson, began Colonial Baking Company in Chattanooga in 1929. It’s too bad that the integrity of the company, brand and bread he began has come to this in the hands of Sara Lee. I plan to write Sara Lee and pass along the comments.

  • 27 wildon Harris // Oct 6, 2012 at 9:28 am

    I worked for Colonial Baking Co. in Rogers, Ark in the late fifties or early sixties. The bakery was located in Fort Smith, Ark. It is a shame that Sara Lee Has closed out the brand as fast as they can because it’s only true competitor was Holsom Bread with the twisted loaf. Shame on Sara Lee.

  • 28 Shane Hoffman // Dec 23, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska. My dad used to work as a loader for Old Home Bread Metz Baking company. He put in his 30 years and retired. I also worked there for a short time as a pull up. Back when I was a pull up before Earthgrains purchased Metz Baking company Old Home Bread. We used to only keep a bread on the store shelf for 3 days then it went to the thrift store. When Earthgrains bought it. They changed that time to 7 days. Earthgrains didn’t own Old Home Bread for maybe 6 months to a year and they themselves got bought out by Sara Lee. Now that Bimbo bought Sara Lee they are now the world’s Largest Bakery. They now own so many brands of bread labels like Ms. Bairds bread and others. I thought that Bimbo bakery was actually based in Europe and then in Mexico second.

  • 29 Bruce Hux // Dec 31, 2012 at 8:17 am

    Gone with the Wind ……….

    The real Colonial Bread.

  • 30 Garland Pollard // Dec 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    its all too bad..such a waste.

  • 31 Mack // Jan 3, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Like so many of you I grew up with Colonial Bread and their products. Had a conversation with the Sara Lee salesman at our local Kroger in Duluth GA. He stated he has recieved a lot of negative comments about our Colonial bread. He went on to say the he thought that Sara Lee was buying up the competiton and closing them down. He also thought they were using day old Sara Lee dough and baking it for Colonial Bread. That may explain the difference from the past. Sara Lee does not want to carry the Colonial label and will be phasing it out. The bakery in Atlanta will soon close. Now with Wonder bread closed we are stuck with inferor bread.

  • 32 Lee Mccoy // Jan 10, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Colonial bread was also sold under the brand names Manor Bread in the Kansas city area and the brand name Rainbow Bread in the St.Joseph Mo. area

  • 33 taurean griggs // Jan 13, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    a get that old bimbo company out the south we need colonial bakery back like they had it

  • 34 2013 American Package Design Award – Colonial Bread | PKG Blog // Feb 4, 2013 at 10:02 am

    [...] bread brand by taking it back to it’s roots. In our initial research we discovered what a rich history this brand had throughout the south with it’s “Colonial is good bread” tagline. [...]

  • 35 Bruce Hux // Dec 15, 2013 at 8:09 am

    The 2013 American Package Design Award is nice…

    It’s the bread that sukks.

  • 36 Tom W // Jan 10, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Colonial and Rainbo were always the best of the widely-available store brands. It’s too bad about the Sara Lee hookup. Sara Lee is by far the worst bread on the shelf.

  • 37 Jo Ann // Feb 3, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    I loathe the taste and texture of what our Colonial Bread has transformed into since Sara Lee purchased our branch in Nashville. Since childhood we always purchased Colonial, but today after buying one last loaf and it taste even worse, we will no longer buy any Sara Lee products. Don’t know what they did to our wonderful bread, but it definitely no longer exist. I suppose the result is from cutting corners and cost. Horrible bread now.

  • 38 Vivian Jackson // Feb 28, 2014 at 10:12 am

    I think the bread you’re making now is terrible, it gets hard and then sometime the bread is wet, what are you’ll doing with the bread, I can not even eat your bread but one day before it goes bad. shame on the company for selling people just anything, I have lost 2 loaves of bread in the last week.

  • 39 Dale Phillips // Apr 25, 2014 at 8:23 am

    I think the bread you’re making now is terrible,what are you’ll doing with the bread, I can not even eat your bread but one day before it goes bad.. I have eaten Colonial bread for 70 years and the whipped texture sucks. I will never buy anymore Sara lee products.

  • 40 Noah Berry // Jun 12, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    Good Bread ,Fresh Bread ,Colonial Bread is Fresh Bread. Put it in the oven ,bake it in a pan, get it to the store as fast as we can.Im the bread man just rolling in dough, loafing around a little crusty around the edges . I worked in the bread business with Colonial in Atlanta and Pensacola for about 21 years left in 2004 after Sara Lee took over and ran the brand into the ground . I remember you and your dad Bruce Hux we used to play golf at Cannongate together .

  • 41 Al Craven // Jul 1, 2014 at 2:45 am

    I was raised with Colonial Bread, thin sliced, sandwich bread. Since I have been an adult it has been almost impossible to find it. Since moving to Knoxville, TN, it has been IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND, COLONIAL BREAD. If I could find it, it would be the only loaf bread I would buy.

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