Natural Foods Merchandiser

Retzloff Leaves HCOW, Hones in on Rudi's

Citing a need to focus on other business interests, former Horizon Organic Holding Co. President Mark A. Retzloff has resigned from the board of the company he helped found in 1991.

"Being a member of a publicly traded company's board of directors takes a lot of time," said Retzloff, who is now chairman and chief executive officer of Rudi's Organic Bakery in Boulder, Colo. "I have a lot of other business interests. When push came to shove, this was one that could go."

Retzloff's resignation was accepted July 31. He stopped day-to-day duties at the Longmont, Colo.-based organic dairy in February 2001. "Mark has been a pioneer in the organic foods business. His insight and leadership helped build Horizon Organic from a Colorado-based organic dairy to the leading marketer of branded organic foods in the nation," said Horizon Chairman Tom McCloskey.

Since last summer, Retzloff has been hard at work attempting to stabilize Rudi's financially. Although it's the nation's largest producer of organic kosher breads, the bakery expanded too far, too fast, and after building a $7.5 million plant in North Liberty, Iowa, was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Retzloff closed the Iowa bakery last February, seven months after it opened. If the decision to close the plant was painful for Rudi's, it was devastating to the Iowa Agricultural Finance Corp., which invested $6.2 million, and the state of Iowa and local governments that offered $8 million in grants and tax incentives.

But Retzloff said business is looking up. In the quarter that ended June 31, Rudi's sales increased 26 percent over the year-ago quarter. "If we continue with that kind of growth, we will need new capacity within the next year. We would be looking at the plant in Iowa as an option."

Rudi's logged $5.6 million in sales of organic artisan and sandwich bread in 2001. The company produces up to 70,000 loaves per week in its Boulder bakery. The company still uses the Iowa plant as a distribution center and has begun to expand its marketing efforts in the Midwest and on the West Coast.

"Things are progressing well," Retzloff said. "Rudi's has a long ways to go, but we're growing the sales, getting new people in here and cutting our costs. Things are moving in the right direction and I'm very positive about that."

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 9/p. 7

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