McKee Foods Corporation is a family owned food processing company based in Tennessee, USA. It is engaged in the manufacture of retail breakfast cereals, commercial baked goods, leavening agents, cracker and cookie manufacturing.
The company’s history started in 1934 when the McKees bought Jack’s Cookie Company, a bakery in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and began operating with just three employees. After a year of running the business, they introduced their Oatmeal Crème Pie product, which quickly became popular and is still currently a popular product among consumers.
By 1939, the McKees had relocated to a larger main office in Charlotte and continued expansion by buying additional machinery to produce more baked goods. In that same year, the company’s Charlotte bakery was also catering to an increasing demand for their products as well as producing cakes which were intended to be served to the army. Eight years later, the company started construction of a 100 square foot production facility. In 1953, the company bought its first tractor for $4,800. With the continuing success of the company, they once again saw the need to move to larger facilities and relocated to Collegedale, Tennessee. The McKees accepted Southern Junior College’s offer to use their facilities in exchange for jobs for the students.
In 1960, the company began to adopt the Little Debbie logo for its products. In the same year, the company introduced a new packaging system where 12 different kinds of products were packed in one carton. This quickly became a hit and was the start of the company’s nationwide popularity through the Little Debbie brand. Six years after, McKee Foods was ready for its 13th expansion project and bought a farm near the company’s first plant. The farm was to be the location for plant number two.
In 1974, McKee Foods bought Sovex, a company engaged in producing granola and soy extracts. In 2004, McKee renamed Sovex into Blue Planet Foods. By 1980, McKee Foods had expanded nationwide, distributing its products in 48 states. In 1982, the company started construction of a new facility located in Gentry, Arkansas. That same year, the company entered into production of cereal and granola products and marketed these products under the Sunbelt® brand. In 1996, McKee Foods opened a center for research and development at Collegedale to honor the company’s co-founder, O.D. McKee, as well as to develop new products.
In 2000, the company celebrated Little Debbie®’s 40th anniversary. In 2004, McKee Foods was able to acquire Custom Baking Co. in Chattanooga. Currently, McKee Foods produces a wide range of food products including breakfast cereals, cream-filled cookies and snack bars. Its products are not only distributed in the United States, but in Mexico and Canada, as well.
• Headquarters: Collegedale, Tennessee
• Ownership Type: Private
• No. of Employees: 6,000
• Geography: USA, Mexico, Canada
• Demography: breakfast cereal consumers, commercial bakery products consumers
Little Debbie®, Heartland®, Sunbelt®, Fieldstone™ Bakery