Business is booming for America’s oldest flour company.
King Arthur nearly tripled the demand for his flour in March as a lockdown country turned to baking bread and other baked goods as a pastime.
“It feels like years ago, even though it was only weeks ago,” says King Arthur Co-CEO Karen Colberg. “We have started to work with our milling partners to boot up safely. We asked how quickly you can switch from about half capacity to 24-7? “
The escalation aims to bring millions of pounds of new flour into stores across the country over the next few weeks as consumers find some types of flour are in short supply, including King Arthur’s all-purpose flour, the country’s second best seller after gold medal. The 230-year-old company sold around 6.1 million bags of all-purpose flour in March, 268% more than the previous year.
King Arthur makes the country’s top-selling high-protein bread flour brand, which has double that of its closest competitor, Gold Medal, and increased sales by 287% to nearly a million bags over the same period. In September and October, before the busiest baking season of the year, the company sold a total of 550,000 bags across all channels.
King Arthur was able to handle the initial surge due to the extra inventory it had built up for Easter, its second busiest season, but this year orders continued well beyond the holidays in mid-April.
“Getting the meal and packing time and then going through the warehouses to the grocery store shelves is a pretty complex piece of the puzzle,” says Colberg, who joined the employee-run company in 2005.
Founded in 1790, King Arthur made a $ 150 million sales deal by buying flour from millers across the country and selling it in five pound sacks in supermarkets. It was nice tough business recently, global wheat prices have steadily fallen over the past five years as tastes have embraced alternative flours and grain-free diets. Since the use of bleached flours and bromates (flour-stiffening chemicals that improve the surge but have been linked to cancer) has been touted, King Arthur’s bags typically cost 25% more than traditional gold medals.
Colberg says King Arthur would normally expect baking to largely decline over the summer months, but now he expects demand to remain consistently high over the long term.
“We didn’t know how long people would stock up on supplies,” says Colberg. “What we are seeing now is that it is becoming a hobby for so many. It has really become our national pastime. “