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Flowers cake label collection (and cake brands in general), and NYC-VA journeys

May 1, 2012

Click to enlargeWhile others had stamp collections; I collected these colorful cake labels. It started when I went off to college in Virginia. I found that some of the cakes I was used to in NYC were missing. It was the Drake’s, which I then find are primarily a northeastern product, and not national like archcompetitor Hostess. You would think they were national as popular a household name brand they are up here.
In Virginia, Philly’s Tastykake brand was the major competitor to Hostess. You see more Tastykakes as soon as you cross over from NY to New Jersey, and then Drake’s become less frequent. In NY, Tastykake is distributed by a company called “Operative Cake Company”, which also distributed these other cakes under their own “Lady Linda” label. They included three fake Twinkies in a pack called “Goldfingers”, Raspberry Luncheon Rolls, and a taco shaped Banana Flip.

Well, in Virginia, I find these same cakes with four different labels: the primary one was Beebo, distributed by their manufacturer Flowers Industries‘ own operations. I had never heard of this company, as the name was not printed on the Lady Linda labels, and they have no operations up here. But they are a big Southern company, however.
The cakes distributed by the Norfolk rival Mary Jane baker were labeled Aunt Hannah. Some of these labels were also carried by Operative, when they did not print their own Lady Linda Label for particular cakes. The ones distributed by Bon Ton potato chips were Mountain Farm. These could be found in NY by another distributor, Sheppard Baking Company, who also labeled some of the Flowers cakes with their own Betty Jane sticker.
Then, when Flowers cakes were distributed in other areas by the local Sunbeam bread franchise holder, there was a Sunbeam cake label as well. These I found on the Delmarva Peninsula, when my parents would be driving me back home for the summer, and I would have them stop in stores both to try to see where Drake’s would start appearing (they only went as far as Delaware or DC), and to pick up fireworks for July 4th, since they were nearly impossible to get in NYC. I had also seen them in our day trips to the Delaware Water Gap.
Some of the Sunbeams, like most of the Beebo’s, were sold in printed wrappers instead of using the paper labels. The Raspberry Luncheon Roll was in a funny looking almost all red label. I tried to bring home the wrapper from the one I had bought at the T’s Corner stop near the MD-VA line, but it apparently got thrown out on the way. Afterwards, it was replaced by the standard paper label.

My friend who worked at the Flowers’ thrift store near the campus, (and is now a regional manager), had been telling me about a simple Flowers branded cake label seen near Waynesboro (in western VA). It supposedy consisted of the Flowers logo in a diagonal ribbon, as appeared on the corners of both the Sunbeam bread wrappers and delivery trucks. (Curious as to why that would be used there, instead of Beebo, like everywhere else). But as Waynesboro was never in the way of any of my journeys, I never got to verify this, and never saw it anywhere else, either. So it was an elusive “easter egg” that I kept an eye out for, and made me really curious as to what a given area I passed through sold.

So I begin collecting samples of these labels.
(Distributor in mid-atlantic region is Schmidt Baking Company, and in the areas between there and NY was Maiers. Waldensian had eastern North Carolina, and in certain stores in Chesapeake for some reason they held the Sunbeam franchise instead of Flowers, who used an Aunt Hannah bread label for such an occasion, as they did in Fredericksburg where they overlapped with Schmidt’s territory.

Reymond Baking company covered NYC/LI and western New England, with the yellow “Pixies” label they printed themselves bought right on Lawrence @Willoughby in Brooklyn, which was the only place I could find them. The bread was still rare in the city, however. Pennsylvania-based Stroehmann (which bought out the Taystee operation) eventually picked up the franchise in the NYC area, bringing Sunbeam bread firmly to the area, but not the Flowers cakes, however, which were still carried by the other distributors).

Golden Top and Griffin I found up in Springfield, MA in the stores around my Grandmother’s house. I don’t know who the distributor was up there. Morning Fresh was actually distributed in NY by Drake’s, for the Pecan Spins and Honey Buns, before they eventually created their own label for them (And now, Hostess has recently replaced it with their label, as both companies are owned by Dolly Madison, and you also have Hostess “Zingers” labels!) The Vanilla Flip example displayed, however; I found somewhere else, (forget; may have been Del. Water Gap area IIRC; and this vanilla creme version was very rare).
Flowers’ primary UPC manufacturer code was 72250. The other labels with 72359 were probably bought out from some other company. 71320 is the QBA Sunbeam franchise. (All of that brand watching also got me interested in the UPC code).

Later, Flowers introduces this new label called “Jubilee”, and eventually replaces all of them with a new label, Blue Bird, which is their current first party brand. Another new brand, Mrs. Freshley, is now the third party distribution label replacing all the others. The paper labels were discontinued, and only printed wrappers are used now, so there are no examples of these in the image.

The French pastries were a funny looking oval shaped cake covered with chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla coconut icing. They had a thin layer of creme inside as well. These were among my favorites. I remember seeing the strawberry ones even way before college, when I used to visit an aunt in central Virginia. This was before the Beebo label had spread everywhere, so I vaguely remember them being the Sunbeam labels, which was also totally foreign to me. (Flowers holds the franchise in most of the areas it operates in. To me, Sunbeam was just an appliance brand). Picture quaint country stores, with these odd looking cakes and cake brands. It was always so different from home.

So I always wanted to create something with the labels, and now in the computer age, they came in handy for the Wikipedia article I created for the Flowers company (and someone since moved to a new article called “Flowers Foods”). This before I got the idea to create this page showcasing my images.

Also of worthy mention were the Shake Cakes of a company even further in the south I would not discover until I went into the Air Force. In Texas, there was a brand called “Break” cakes, by a baker called Campbell Taggart, whose bread brand was “Colonial” in that area, but “Rainbo” further out west, as I would find when I left basic training for the next level of training in Denver, and then finally a station in California.
The Shake Cakes were like Dolly “Zingers”; basically rectangular ” fingers”, with ribbed icing on top; but slightly longer, and came in chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, instead of chocolate, golden and raspberry frosted, like the Zingers. It was the cake and icing that were flavored; not just the icing! There was nothing else like these anywhere! In California, they were not where I was stationed, but I did find them at a rest stop on a trip I made between LA and San Francisco once. After returning home; I never saw them again.
A few years later, other Break products surprisingly turned up in NYC, replacing the Royal creme pies carried by Operative for a time! But the Shake Cakes were discontinued by then. Now, Campbell Taggart has changed its name to Earth Grains, and discontinued the Break Cake line and all brands but Earth Grains.
It seems all knowledge of the cakes was being erased, but I suddenly found this video of a commercial for them (which doesn’t include the Shake Cakes, but does show their other products, most of which are the typical Hostess imitations. The only other ones I had remembered, were the pies, which look almost like Drake’s two mini-pies, but are joined by a thinner section in the middle).

They were then for a time one of the franchise holders of Taystee Bread, which was always the archcompetitor to Wonder here in NYC. While its parent company American Baking Company was bought out by IBC (Dolly Madison), and Taystee’s southern counterpart, Merita, came under IBC ownership; Taystee here in NY was sold to Pennsylvania baker Stroehmann, who actually replaced the label with the Sunbeam franchise (which had never been strong here), and Taystee became a franchise label, much like Sunbeam, you can still find in midwest places like Chicago. Now, more recently, Stroehmann actually restored the Taystee label on the Pan Dorado bread (Spanish potato bread)!

Now, as was mentioned; IBC owns both Hostess and Drakes’ as well as Merita. When Continental Baking Company (Hostess/Wonder) tried to buy out Drakes in the late 80’s, it was somehow broken up as an unfair monopoly.

In the mean time, CBC was bought out by IBC, and now they were able to gain Drake’s and keep it. You would think this would be good for Drake’s to finally gain national distribution, and while this is being attempted, they also were apparently pulled out of most of Florida, the one remote southern state they could be found in. (Supposedly because kosher Jews brought them along or demanded them when they retired down there. They at one time were one of the few companies not to use beef tallow and lard (uggh!) as shortening. Hostess and others still have the tallow in most of the cakes).

Now that Drake’s is owned by a company that has other brands there; perhaps they were not needed; they make their money from the popular Hostess and Dolly Madison. Generally, outside the northeast, they weren’t really sold in corner stores in individual packs, but rather family packs in supermarkets. So naturally, they would not catch on much.

People not used to them find them too dry. But up here where we are used to them, I find them unique, as Hostess’ devil food is too rich, and everyone else seemed to copy Hostess’ style. On the Roadfood forum, people in various parts of the south claim they see some of them. But when I was in Orlando for my wife’s NCCA (temperament) conference in 2005, they were gone (not even in the big Merita bakery thrift store, easily found because of its huge sign standing out before the city skyline; and where I was told that they had just been pulled a week before!), and I still didn’t see them in Virginia when I went that year. (More recently, a Roodfood poster from Orlando says they are there again).

What I would wish is that someone else would buy Hostess and Wonder; perhaps Kraft General Foods, or Frito Lay (national brands that seem to go along with Hostess and the main snack brands). IBC then would continue to have Drake’s, and then buy out both Stroehmann and Earth Grains, and restore the Taystee label to New York, and resurrect the Shake Cakes, which would be Drakes in NY, and perhaps become an extension of the Dolly “Zinger” line elsewhere. Perhaps Drakes would also pick up the Zingers instead of Hostess, and would be “Drakes by Dolly” instead of “Drakes by Hostess”. (Stroehmann, hwever, is now owned by the hugely expanding BIMBO company out of Latin America, along with Entenmann’s, Thomas, Arnold’s, Freihofer’s, Mrs Baird’s in Texas, etc. Another branch of Bimbo, based in Spain, is apparently separate, and owned by Sara Lee. I first started seeing the little Bimbo crackers with the mascot teddy bear on Operative shelves in bodegas in the 90’s or before, and it looked like a ripoff of Beebo.

Now, in just over a decade, this company has practically taken over, with their own huge “Marinelas” stands in many bodegas, replacing either a separate Hostess or Drakes stand, which are now compacted together. Drakes and entenmann’s did always seem to go together as NY baked sweets, so then it would be a matter of a Bimbo-IBC merger).
Taystee and Drake’s would then be like Wonder and Hostess. Taystee and Drake’s were never related, but it always seemed like they were, because they were CBC’s main competitors for bread and cakes, respectively (ABC’s cake label was Mickey, which was similar to Dolly Madison and Hostess, and gradually disappeared in the mergers). So elsewhere, it could be Dolly and Merita. Or Break and Colonial, Rainbo, etc. (though these have been discontinued already). They could either expand Drakes, or add its products to the other labels. In the south, perhaps rename “Yankee Doodles” to “Dixie Doodles” or something like that, to ensure they receive them. And restore the Shake Cakes (under whichever labels), and bring them to New York.

Also why not bring back the old Banana Dream I hear people talk about. This was an ABC west coast Langendorf product that was a cake cup (like the ones you fill with strawberries and creme), but made with spice cake, and filled with real banana creme. That sounded so good! It was at some point turned into a yellow cake “flip”, identical with Flowers’ version (but tasting much better), which is what I first saw of it. It like other Mickey products then took on the Dolly label which it can still be found under, but the original sure would be nice to have. Another thing I had really missed when I went to college were Drake’s own imitation Twinkes, the “Shortcakes”, but were filled with strawberry, banana, or chocolate creme, in addition to vanilla. The flavors were eventually eliminated, and the vanilla one changed to the name “Zoinks” (like Shaggy’s exclamation on Scooby Doo; seemed silly to me), and then disappeared for good, two decades ago.
Little Debbie came out with Banana Pudding Rolls, which are really good, and then someone on the Roadfood forum said that Flowers’ Banana Pudding cakes tasted a lot like the Banana Dream, and I finally got to taste those!

So if they did all of this, then the battle would be back on, with Drake’s and Dolly Madison going against Hostess, this time nationally, hopefully. It’s no fun with them all on the same racks, and delivered on the same trucks together! (and now, while Hostess got nice new label designs, the Drakes label only gets a “by Hostess” added to it! Wikipedia article now suspects it might be part of a phasing out of the Drake brand, though there is no source for it). IBC would also buy out Wise, which was the non-sweet snack that accompanied Drake’s when they were both owned by Borden. Cracker Jacks as well, which was picked up by Frito Lay.

Shocking news for 2011 is the acquisition of Tastykake by Flowers Foods! I was surprised that Tastykake remained completely independent for so long. I had figured Hershey’s should buy it, since the companies are from the same area, and Tastykake is mostly Chocolate products.

On the latest Norfolk trip (which have become very far apart by now), I got to taste the new Flowers banana pudding cupcakes, as just mentioned, as well as a new Red Velvet Bingles (as the fake Twinkies are still branded on the Blue Bird Label taking over from Beebo, though I got them in the Mrs. Freshley brand, where they are just called “cakes”. I had seen or heard about them on the Flowers Foods site, and couldn’t wait to try them out. I found them at the Wal-Mart near JANAF center, and they also had Drake’s, but only the apple and cherry pies in the family packs. (Though oddly, the “By Hostess” logo doesn’t appear). Still, I have finally, for the first time, after 27 years, seen Drakes’ products sold in Norfolk! (So those southerners on the Roadfood forum weren’t hallucinating after all!)
This Wal-Mart is where in my ’05 trip, I had seen Schmidt, Maiers, and even Stroehmann bread sold! Like the entire trip home on one shelf! (Though none of that stuff was there this time; however Schmidt products have oddly become a somewhat regular feature in NY’s Duane Reade chain for several years now!) I did see Stroehmann trucks all up the Eastern Shore route, and a Natures’ Own (Flowers’ specialty bread) truck in front of the new Wal-Mart at Onley.

As the old Flowers labels had all disappeared, Schmidt began producing its own labels for the Flowers’ products I would see, usually at T’s Corner, one of only two stores I can still get out at and enter since I no longer have the car ride. Now, Tastykake is what you primarily see on the Eastern Shore (and an occasional Mrs Freshley’s). Funny, I didn’t see them in the stores there before, even though this was right on the middle of Tastykake’s domain, but that is what dominates now.

And a Royal Farms convenience store chain seems to be the hottest new thing on Delmarva. (One was the rest stop in Bridgeville, DE. Before, it was pretty much all the “Shore Stop” chain). Great fried chicken, and Lakeview Farms Cookies & Creme Dessert parfait was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.
I grew up with a Royal Farms supermarket which in the late 70’s became Consumer’s Food, and then in the 90’s most of them became Big R (the one I grew up with was taken by C-Town first, and remained with that chain to the present), and now seems to have been completely absorbed into the Bogopa “Food Bazaar” chain. The Delmarva chain says it goes back to 1959. So I wonder if there was any connection in the past.

Now, Food Lion can be seen all the way up to New Castle (near State Road, and even into Wilmington). A prominent fixture in the “southside” (the new term for “Tidewater”), and the rest of Virginia and the south; you previously didn’t see them in the trip until you got to the southside. When I first arrived down there, they were just finishing up the conversion of the chain from Food Town (which we have up here in NY; though I’m not sure if the chains were ever connected. For one thing, our “Foodtown” is one word). Seemed like a silly name to me, but it is based on the foreign company that purchased the chain.

See also:

  1. Other changes in “The New Norfolk” (as it promotes itself as)

    So it’s clear I would not be as homesick in Norfolk as 25 years ago. They have built up a lot, and have even added a rail system (on the track right near the campus, which I had heard back then they were thinking of converting to light rail), which is what I went down there to see this time. As the portion near NSU is elevated, rather than using a completely concrete trackbed, wooden track panels are placed on top of the structure like on the old big city “els”. That certainly seemed like home. (The structure is still the typical modern white concrete guideway, however. The rest of it used the standard concrete ties in private ROW, or embedded rails in streets). The pair of chimes before an announcement (which are more modern on the LIRR/MNRR “M7” cars and only a single chime on NYCTA New Tech trains) sound a lot like the R44-68 door chimes.

    I was surprised in the ’05 trip to find a Jimmy Jazz store in Military Circle. (Wasn’t even listed on their website. I had watched this grow from a Brooklyn neighborhood store I would see passing by on the train on Knickerbocker and Graham Avenues over the years). I then heard they were getting an Ⓢ SND Underground as well, and now that is there in the mall, right around the corner from Jimmy Jazz. And even a CONWAY‘s right in the middle of the JANAF strip across VA Beach Blvd. That to me had been the store that appeared in the old “Martin’s” space across the street from the A&S flagship store in Brooklyn, and then spread around the city.
    And what I had been waiting for since college, the macy*s, which in around ’07 bought out the company that took over Thalheimer’s, which was the anchor of Military Circle when I was in school. When I first arrived down there, my Christmas nostalgia was kicking into full swing, and since Macy’s was one of the main elements of this, because of the Herald Square flagship, I had wished that there was one down there, and that it wouldn’t be subsidiaries Bamberger’s (mid-atlantic) or Davidson’s (further south). California and Texas (and I believe Florida) had their own divisions of the main Macy’s. But now those other companies have all been folded into the Macy’s name, plus other companies bought out, bringing Macy’s basically everywhere.

    The NSU campus has changed (even since the ’05 trip!) to the point of being largely unrecognizeable. (In that last trip, it was night when I got to the campus, and also, spring break, as I didn’t realize until too late, so it was totally desolate and a bit spooky, and I just looked at the stadium and left). They added new buildings or extensions of buildings to what had been open grassy space, several buildings replaced, and the campus extended eastward (almost to the next rail station, Ballentine/Broad Creek), with not only the Spartans football stadium (which I first saw in ’05), but also many new dorms, and even their own little mini-mall, replacing the old “Godwin” Student union center. This even has a bridge connecting buildings.

    I already knew this from online, but The CBBT Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel now has E-ZPass, which is very rare down there. Also, back in the 80’s, the $9 toll seemed ridiculously expensive compared to everywhere else (it was such a special route, after all), but now, the price has only gone up slightly, while NYC’s basic tolls have just passed right by their’s!

  2. Someone actually found a version of the Break cake video that mentions Shake Cakes (picture quality is very bad, but you can actually catch a few glimpses of them!)

  3. With Wonder back on the shelves under Flowers productions (in addition to Tastykakes, purchased two years ago), here is Flower’s total distribution area now, becoming for the most part, national:

    As an update to other cakes, ol’ Operative is still kicking in there, based in NJ instead of LIC now. I believe it merged with Prince Donuts, (who formerly made the Drake donuts), and now their name and address appear on some of the Lady Linda products, which now basically are the two fake Twinkies in a pack (Now simply called “Creme Fingers”), along with the donuts, a pound cake, pink Snowballs, and before the old Hostess went under, Zingers (Called “cake Fingers”. They must have been the real Zingers and not imitations, because they disappeared when Hostess went under. They did always seem a bit drier, though. The fake Twinkies and Snowballs are probably still FLowers).

    This is totally separate from most of the Flowers cakes in bodegaland, which are the main third party label Mrs Freshley, and usually on the shelf with another line of cakes, Joey’s. These are what have taken over the old Hostess/Drake’s shelves (and remain there, as either once-again-separate company moves back into a store, they usually bring new racks, with the Drakes sold out of the opened family pack boxes).

    The distributor appears to be Joey’s itself, based out of Newark.
    They’ve recently added the Flowers Banana Pudding Cupcake two-packs, and there’s also the chocolate Dreamies (Dreamies are the “fake Twinkies” or Bingles for both Mrs Freshley, and now even Tastykake labels), and chocolate “Bells” (basically, the Ding-Dongs, but with sloped sides).

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