Natural Foods Merchandiser

Charterhouse rolls out dough for Rudi's and other organic breads

Rudi's Organic Bakery, The Vermont Bread Co. and the Adams Baking Corp. have merged under a single corporate parent, Charter Baking Co., which will be headquartered in Rudi's home city, Boulder, Colo.

Charterhouse Group, a private equity firm in New York, bought controlling interest in Rudi's in August from the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, adding it to the two other baking companies it acquired earlier in 2005. Terms weren't disclosed.

The "bread rollup" combines Rudi's—the No. 1 organic baked-goods brand in the United States, according to SPINS—with two northeastern bakehouses.

Gary Sebek, president of Rudi's, will become president of Charter Baking. "All three of the brands strategically share a common vision," which includes small-batch baking using organic and natural ingredients, he said.

Vermont Bread, based in Brattleboro, produces natural and organic breads and muffins. Adams Baking of Milford, N.J., makes breads, muffins, other baked goods and granola under The Baker brand.

The consolidation will give Vermont Bread and Adams Baking access to Rudi's new production plant in Boulder and give Rudi's access to Vermont Bread's and Adams Baking's facilities and direct store distribution in the East. Rudi's more than doubled its plant size with the opening of a new production facility in Boulder earlier this year.

"We'll provide one-stop shopping for the trade," predicted Victoria Hartman, vice president of sales for the new company. "With Charterhouse's resources, we'll be able to attract more consumers to the natural and organic bread category."

John Foley, formerly of Bimbo Bakeries USA and Bestfoods Baking/Unilever, will continue as chief executive officer of Charter Baking. Paul Mullan, a strategic partner at Charterhouse, was named chairman of Charter Baking. He served as CEO of Del Monte Foods and Fleer Inc., both former Charterhouse Group portfolio companies.

Charterhouse has $1.3 billion in assets under management. Iowa Farm Bureau Foundation has invested in the New York fund.

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