60-second interview: Dave's Killer Bread CEO John Tucker

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Dave’s Killer Bread co-founder Glenn Dahl (left) and CEO John Tucker (right) at the Portland Farmers Market. Photo credit: Dave's Killer Bread
Dave’s Killer Bread co-founder Glenn Dahl (left) and CEO John Tucker (right) at the Portland Farmers Market. Photo credit: Dave's Killer Bread

Related tags Killer bread Organic food

Will Dave's Killer Bread retain its edgy appeal without its co-founder and namesake? FoodNavigator-USA (FNU) caught up with CEO John Tucker after bakery giant Flowers Foods coughed up a cool $275m in cash to buy the organic baker from the founding Dahl family and New York-based private equity firm Goode Partners.

According to Flowers CEO Allen Shiver, DKB will be run as an independent subsidiary.

FNU: What does the deal mean for you?  Are you polishing off the résumé?

JT: No!  I don't have any intention of going anywhere, I’m on a mission to get Dave’s Killer Bread into consumers’ hands right across the country and I want to help build it into an iconic brand. That’s a pretty exciting challenge and I want to be a part of it.

[Tucker - who joined DKB in May 2013, five months after VC firm Goode Partners took a 50% stake - was formerly president of Turtle Mountain, the firm behind the fast-growing SO Delicious brand.]

FNU: Why sell the business?

JT: We’ve been experiencing phenomenal growth and with that comes an enormous amount of challenges around distribution, and our ability to produce enough product to meet growing demand. The #1 complaint/question we have from consumers is 'Where can we find Dave’s Killer Bread?', so it just makes a lot of sense to align ourselves with a company that’s been doing this for 100 years and has all this experience and a huge DSD (direct store delivery) network. To put it into perspective, we have 11 DSD route trucks; Flowers has 6,000.

FNU: What will the deal mean from a manufacturing perspective?

JT: First and foremost Flowers supports our goals to grow here in our Milwaukie, OR, facility ​[where DKB employs 300 people] – we’ll require all of our employees and then some. But long term I see an enormous opportunity to see our bread being produced in other parts of the country ​[in Flowers’ bakeries] as well.

Daves Killer Bread co-founder dave dahl
Dave's Killer Bread co-founder Dave Dahl told local reporters this week that selling up was "bittersweet". He added: "It's my baby. But it's not a baby anymore... The bread is going to be available to many more people now."

FNU: If Dave Dahl (the ‘Dave’ in Dave’s Killer Bread) is de-coupled from the business, what will that mean for the brand?

JT: The brand used to be very Dave-centric originally, and was built around his story of reinvention​ [Dahl joined the family bakery NatureBake in 2005 after 15 years in prison and built the DKB brand with his brother Glenn and Glenn’s son Shobi] but there are so many other amazing stories of redemption and transformation here as well​ [almost a third of the staff have a criminal background], that over time, the brand has become about second chances for everyone, and is not centered on any one single individual.   

FNU: Which products are driving your double-digit sales growth?

JT: Our core lines are still taking the lead and doing extremely well in all of our markets, but one new product we’re very excited about is our White Bread Done Right, which has 10g of whole grains and 3g of protein per serving​ [it’s made with wheat, barley, rye, spelt, millet and quinoa], and that product is growing very rapidly.

FNU: Are you facing challenges around sourcing organic ingredients for your products?

JT: One of things I’m really proud of is that we’re very much ahead of the curve on this issue, very engaged with the organic community and our suppliers. When I came on board ​[in May 2013] I spent a lot of time with our supply chain team asking 'what if?' What are the implications if we grow at this rate, or at this rate?

Dave's Killer van
CEO John Tucker at the Portland Farmers Market

According to Flowers Foods, retail sales of Dave's Killer Bread surged 25% last year, while fiscal 2016 sales are forecast to be between $160 and $170 million, said Flowers CEO Allen Shiver, who noted that growth in the organic bread market significantly outpaced growth in the overall bakery category in the past four years.

Founded in 1955 by the Dahl family, the company assumed the name of its best-selling variety, Dave's Killer Bread ,in 2005 after it proved a hit at the Portland Farmer's Market.

Today it employs 300 people and operates one bakery in Milwaukie, Oregon.

DKB products have no artificial ingredients and are certified USDA organic, Non-GMO Project verified and high in protein, fiber and whole grains.

Read more about the deal HERE​. 

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