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Conagra sells Lender's Bagels, Mattoon plant to Grupo Bimbo
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Conagra sells Lender's Bagels, Mattoon plant to Grupo Bimbo

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MATTOON — Conagra Brands has sold Lender’s Bagels and its Mattoon bagel factory to Bimbo Bakeries USA, Inc., a business unit of Mexico City-based Grupo Bimbo.

Chicago-based Conagra announced the divestiture earlier this month in a press release on its corporate website, with the transaction including "the Lender's brand and related intellectual property, the production facility in Mattoon, Ill., and inventory." The factory is located at 3801 DeWitt Ave. in Mattoon.

Forbes subsequently reported that Conagra CFO David Marberger expects the Lender’s transaction to close during the third quarter of fiscal year 2020. Forbes reported that Conagra had acquired Lender's, a refrigerated and frozen bakery business, as part of its $10.9 billion acquisition of Pinnacle Foods in 2018. Conagra reportedly has sold Lender's to Grupo Bimbo for an undisclosed sum.

According to Forbes, a company spokesperson did not comment on Conagra’s long-term growth plans in the bakery market but noted that the company regularly evaluates its portfolio of brands and makes changes based on strategic priorities.

Mattoon plant Lender's sole source, makes 2 million bagels daily

Food Business News reported that Bimbo Bakeries USA, based in Horsham, Pa., also owns and operates the Thomas’ grain-based foods business, which includes bagels in its product portfolio.

In its article, Food Business News also detailed Lender’s history dating back to Harry Lender starting his New York Bagel Bakery in his family's garage in New Haven, Conn., in 1927.

Food Business News reported that Harry Lender's sons, Murray and Marvin, began to freeze the bakery’s bagels in the late 1950s to keep up with consumer demand, defrosting them for higher-volume weekend sales. This technique reportedly proved to be the catalyst for much of the future success for the company and the product.

According to Food Business News, the Lender brothers took ownership of New York Bagel Bakery in 1960. In 1965, they changed the name to Lender’s Bagels and built their first industrial facility.

The Lender's plant in Mattoon opened in 1986. Community leaders organized the first Bagelfest and free bagel breakfast that year as a way to introduce the company to the community. The festival has been an annual tradition ever since then, with Lender's providing tens of thousands of bagels for the breakfast and the parade.

Officials at the Mattoon plant reported to the JG-TC in July that this more than 200,000-square-foot facility produces 2 million bagels per day when it is in full production. They also reported that this plant, staffed by approximately 250 employees, is the sole source for the refrigerated bagels and the frozen ones that Lender's sells throughout the United States, including to schools and other large workplaces.

Food Business news reported that Lender’s was sold to Kraft Foods in 1985, allowing Marvin and Murray Lender to spend more time on community development and non-profit work. Kellogg acquired Lender’s from Kraft In 1996 for $455 million, but sold the business after only three years to Aurora Foods for $275 million. Four years later, Aurora sold Lender’s to Pinnacle.

LOOK BACK: A Lender's bagels history, as first published in 1998

Contact Stroud at (217) 238-6861.

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Reporter

Rob Stroud is a reporter for the JG-TC, covering the city of Mattoon, Lake Land College, Cumberland County and areas including Oakland, Casey and Martinsville.

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