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MailTribune.com
  • Harry and David branches out with muffin business

  • By GREG STILES
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  • By GREG STILES
    Mail Tribune
    Add English muffins to the products Harry and David now markets.
    Gourmet food and gift retailer Harry and David Holdings announced Tuesday it has acquired specialty food company Wolferman's from Kansas-based Williams Foods Inc.
    Privately held Wolferman's sells high-end breakfast products through its catalogs and online, generating sales of approximately $28 million in 2007.
    Terms of the deal weren't immediately announced, but Harry and David chief executive Bill Williams said the transaction price will be included in a Securities and Exchange Commission filling within a couple of days.
    Williams said Medford-based Harry and David, whose fiscal 2007 revenue topped $571 million, was drawn to Wolferman's strong brand, product quality, service and its niche.
    "It's a food gift business that fits into our infrastructure and we think we can grow it," Williams said.
    Wolferman's began producing specialty baked foods in 1888 and began making English muffins in 1910. Years later it was obtained by Sara Lee before Williams Foods bought the company, which lists Kansas City suburb Shawnee Mission as its headquarters. Today, however, the muffins are produced in Indiana and Tennessee bakeries.
    "They outsource virtually everything," Williams said. "They were to Williams Foods like Jackson & Perkins was to us, where we did accounting, computing and that sort of thing. It will be a very easy transition, because they had a very small employee base."
    It was the sale of the Jackson & Perkins rose business and Southern California land holdings totaling $49 million last year that helped provide the cash for the acquisition, Williams said. "Wolferman's wasn't on the horizon then, but we had cash that could be put to good use."
    Wolferman's annual revenue is less than half of Jackson & Perkins, but its lean operations, headed by Laura Brady, proved very attractive. Williams said he hoped Brady will stay on as head of the unit.
    Harry and David expressed interest in the Midwest company last fall and began negotiation in November.
    Williams said Kansas operations will be absorbed at its Medford and Hebron, Ohio, offices, hopefully by the end of June when the fiscal year ends.
    "It's good news for our employees here and in Ohio," Williams said. "Because there will be more sales, production volume and more administration and it creates work. "We'll probably do product assembly in both places, but we'll take a look at muffin production over a longer period of time. There are contracts in place and they're doing a good job. We don't have a bakery to easily make muffins and we have no intention right now to move them."
    For more information, go to www.harryanddavid.com, or www.wolfermans.com
    Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.
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