When Flowers Foods made the decision to convert their traditional bread bakery located in Lynchburg, VA to an all-organic facility to meet consumer demand for the country’s best-selling organic bread, they also saw the chance to transform an already successful facility into something special. Equipped with a top-notch work force, the team was driven by a focus on sustainability and responsible operations. The conversion has been an overwhelming success and Lynchburg Organic Baking Co. recently received the 2021 Better Project Award from the U.S. Department of Energy.
What changes did Flowers Foods make to their bakery in Lynchburg?
Flowers Foods is one of the largest producers of packaged bakery foods in the US, with 46 bakeries in 18 states. The company has operated the Lynchburg bakery for more than 40 years and in 2020, announced the decision to convert the operation from a traditional bread and bun bakery to an organic bakery. The conversion included the installation of specialized ovens and production equipment required to make Dave’s Killer Bread, the country’s number one organic bread brand.
What was important about the Lynchburg location – plant, workforce, community – that drove the decision to invest in this facility?
We chose this location for a number of reasons, including the stable, high-quality workforce at the bakery, our established relationship with the city, and the proximity to key metropolitan areas in the Mid-Atlantic region. The conversion allowed us to reduce our transportation costs while improving the service to these important markets.
How has the facility been transformed?
The organic conversion required a near-total renovation of the facility to both support the organic baking process and also update the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing needed in a modern bakery. As part of the conversion, we added 16,000 square feet to the bakery.
Has the facility transformation required new skills or training for your workforce?
With the conversion of the bakery, we transitioned from a traditional bread and roll production facility to one featuring a unique, organic baking process which required specialized training.
Does an all-organic facility require any new certification?
Lynchburg Organic Baking Co. is a USDA Organic Certified, Non-GMO Project Verified, and kosher certified bakery. Each of these certifications are strictly regulated, with ongoing monitoring, on-site inspections, and annual recertification.
The bakery was recently been honored by the U.S. Department of Energy as a recipient of the 2021 Better Project award from their Better Plants program. What an honor! Tell us about that award.
Even prior to the conversion, the bakery worked hard to minimize its environmental footprint. In fact, for the four years leading up to the conversion, it had achieved EPA Energy Star Certification – ranking in the top 25% in energy efficiency within the baking industry.
This 2021 Better Project award from the U.S. Department of Energy recognizes innovative and industry-leading accomplishments in implementing industrial energy and water efficiency projects – especially renewable energy and energy resiliency projects.
Many of the sustainability features integrated into this conversion were recognized by the award, including high-efficiency ovens, heat recovery systems to provide hot water, eliminating the need for gas-fired boilers, and a new energy-saving refrigeration system. We also installed more than 800 energy-saving LED lights that improve lighting levels at a much lower temperature, providing a more comfortable working environment for our bakery team – especially during the summer months.
Based on four months of operational data, these energy-saving features decreased the energy intensity and water intensity of the bakery significantly and are predicted to reduce annual energy usage by 22% and water consumption 64% compared to the former facility. (Margaret Ann Marsh, Vice President, Sustainability and Environmental at Flowers Foods)
Anything else you want to share about the Lynchburg plant?
Partners and Suppliers
Throughout the project, we had unbelievable support from a number of agencies and representatives from the city and state. Marjette Upshur, Director of the City’s Office of Economic Development & Tourism and her team were especially resourceful. Also providing invaluable support were the project’s lead vendors, AMF Bakery Products, (headquartered in Richmond), Higgins Electric, and Register Construction, who were responsible for the design and integration of the automation and information systems, transforming a building that was built in the early 1900’s into a modern, energy efficient manufacturing facility. On behalf of the entire team, “thank you” to all who were involved and played a role in making this conversion such a success.
As a long-time member of the Lynchburg community, the bakery and its team members contribute their time and talent to make a difference in a number of ways. Volunteers from the bakery work in the Salvation Army soup kitchen once a month, and the bakery participates in Lynchburg’s annual Relay for Life to help raise money for fight against breast cancer. In addition, the bakery team members donate supplies to local schools at the start of the school year.
Second Chance Employment
Lynchburg Organic Baking Co. recruits and hires the best person for the job, regardless of their criminal history. A strong supporter of the Second Chance Employment program, the bakery recognizes the power of giving someone who is ready to change their lives an opportunity – a second chance – to not only to make a living, but to make a life.
This interview was conducted with Paul Baltzer, VP of Communications at Flowers Foods, Inc. and Robert Benton, Executive Vice President of Network Optimization at Flowers Foods.