Sunday, May 11, 2014

Have you ever wondered about Wonder bread ?

Like most of the folks who were growing up when The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was still on prime time television (ABC network), I ate a lot of Wonder Bread, a brand that has been in existence since 1921, when it was created by a small Indiana bakery named Taggart Baking Company.

In 1925, the bakery was sold to Continental Baking, who retained ownership of the company until 1995, when Continental Baking was purchased by Interstate Baking Corporation, which later became Hostess Brands.

Hostess Brands filed for bankruptcy protection in November of 2012, and the United States portion of the company was purchased by Flowers Foods in January of 2013 (Weston Bakeries produces Wonder bread in Canada, and Grupo Bimbo produces Wonder bread in Mexico.)

Continental Baking was responsible for two major innovations during the company’s years of ownership. The first major innovation was that it was one of the very first bakeries to sell pre-sliced bread (in 1930). Its second major innovation came in the 1940’s, when the company began adding vitamins and minerals to its breads as part of a government-sponsored program to enrich white bread, Ultimately, the company was adding 12 vitamins and minerals to Wonder bread, which led to the creation of the slogan “helps build strong bodies 12 ways”. A 1956 ad from Life magazine will bring back a lot of memories for most of us:

I haven’t purchased Wonder bread for years, and probably for decades. My memory of the stuff was that it usually got stuck to the roof of my mouth, and I graduated to more substantial breads a long time ago.

Surprisingly, Wonder bread actually DOES offer good nutritional value, and a significant number of the wide variety of breads sold as Wonder Bread have nutritional values of either A or B:

is that stuff really good for you?

Wonder Bread was in the news recently, but not for reasons that you might expect. According to a recent article in the New York Times, the new owner of Wonder Bread, Flowers Foods, was rated as the most Republican-leaning company in the country. Since 1979, the company has given 99% of its political contributions to the Republican Party, a full 11% higher than the amount contributed by the ultra conservative Koch Industries.

If you’re a died-in-the-wool Democrat (like me) that kind of news is hard to swallow, but you actually wouldn’t accomplish much if you stopped buying the products sold by Flowers Foods. Sharon and I stopped buying Papa John’s pizzas a while back due to John Schnattner’s political affiliations and abysmal employee compensation, but the guy has a net worth of $600 million, so he obviously won’t miss our money very much.

Regardless of your political affiliation, however, there’s one thing that all of us can agree on, and that is that there’s simply too much dough in politics. It’s actually a wonder that our democracy works as well as it does.

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