Flowers Foods, a Georgia-based bread and snacks maker, has won bankruptcy court approval to buy Wonder Bread and other Hostess products and more than two dozen plants around the U.S., including the shuttered Dolly Madison facility in Columbus.
Now, the top questions become: Will the deal pass U.S. Justice Department review under antitrust rules, and how quickly will Flowers put the plant that once employed 200 on National Road back into commission?
It isn’t immediately clear how Flowers intends to use the Columbus plant, which the bankrupt Hostess company closed four months ago amid a strike by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union.
Under Tuesday’s deal, Thomasville, Ga.-based Flowers Foods also will get Nature’s Pride, Butternut, Home Pride and Merita breads as part of a $360 million package approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert D. Drain in New York.
Flowers is buying 29 of 36 Hostess plants around the country as part of the arrangement.
Larry Duncan, business agent for Local 132 of the bakery union, said he expects word of what Flowers intends to do with its Columbus location to leak out fairly soon. At this stage, Duncan said he’s not sure how Flowers will use the plant or when.
A Flowers Foods spokesman did not return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.
Also in bankruptcy court in New York on Tuesday, Hostess Brands Inc. won approval to sell its Twinkies brand, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos to Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co. for $410 million.
Metropoulos, which owns Pabst beer, has said it hopes to have the cakes back on store shelves by summer.
A third deal, the sale of Beefsteak, a regional bread brand, to Grupo Bimbo for $31.9 million also got Drain’s blessing.
Although Flowers is known mostly as a bread company, it also makes snack cakes, cream-filled treats, doughnuts and honey buns. Some of those are distributed in Indiana.
Duncan said many of those products are similar to the assortment of Dolly Madison cakes, doughnuts and other snack foods that were being made in Columbus until the plant went dark in mid-November.
At the height of talks with union employees last fall, Hostess said it couldn’t afford to keep making bread and sweets without concessions from workers on pay and benefits. Unionized workers wouldn’t give in on those points, however, saying they already had given up too much in previous labor negotiations.
Hostess closed the National Road plant Nov. 16 and chose to sell all its assets and brand names rather than keep fighting what it saw as a losing battle.
After Drain’s ruling Tuesday, Metropoulos said it must “move smartly and quickly” to return Twinkies to supermarkets and convenience store shelves.
The bakers union said in a statement Tuesday that its members would be “indispensable partners” in restarting the former Hostess facilities and getting products back into stores.
A separate court hearing is scheduled for April 9 to approve the sale of Drake’s cakes, which include Devil Dogs and Yodels. Hostess picked McKee Foods, the maker of Little Debbie snack cakes, as the buyer of those brands at $27.5 million.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.