St. Cloud-Based Pan O’ Gold Baking Company on Serving
So much of what makes communities like ours special is reflected by how we serve one another, and that includes the companies that serve and support the people who live in Central Minnesota. When it comes to serving others, Pan-O-Gold Baking Company knows a thing or two about that. (Fun fact, just at the St. Cloud facility alone, the company produces 20,000 loaves of bread and 84,000 buns per hour.)
Since Sliced Bread
The original Pan-O-Gold started in 1911 as the Beede Baking Company in Pipestone, MN. The building they’re in now, near downtown St. Cloud, was built as a bakery in 1917. For over 100 years, Pan-O-Gold has been a family-run business, now into its fourth generation. Since the 1940s, the company has been officially dubbed the bakers of “little pans of gold”. It’s one of the largest fresh bread suppliers in the Midwest and owns a private fleet of delivery vehicles, one of the nation’s top 100 independently owned fleets.
Pan-O-Gold is a direct store delivery (DSD) wholesale baking company with three plants in St. Cloud, Fargo, ND, and Sun Prairie, WI serving nine states. Its brands include Village Hearth and Country Hearth, and it bakes bread, buns, bagels, English muffins, tortillas and wraps, and more.
Pan-O-Gold has about 350 employees based in St. Cloud, working in manufacturing, sales, distribution, and operations. “We do it all here,” General Manager Bob Gartland said. “As a wholesale bakery, five days a week we bake the products, place them on trucks, and ship them out to our 20 distribution centers for final delivery. For example, we sell directly to grocery stores and monitor the inventory in the stores, as well as take returns from stores that don’t sell in the fresh period, and credit back those stores. This model differs from a lot of other distributors who drop off inventory and that’s it. We take full responsibility for our products.”
Gartland continued, “We’ve always been here. We have good Central Minnesota and Midwest culture and values in place, and a darn good location centrally located to transportation systems and well-supported infrastructure. Our headquarters in St. Cloud is in good alignment with our other two production bakeries in Fargo and Sun Prairie.”
“We’re the major supplier to the area and all of Minnesota and our brand is well known. Our two competitors in the DSD business combined don’t outpace our production or delivery capabilities. We have a lot of diversity in our plant and having a team that can show up each day to accommodate our production schedule is important. Our business model means we bake just-in-time—the only thing that goes old faster than a loaf of bread is a newspaper… that goes bad after one day. We don’t stock inventory; fresh baked goods don’t work that way. Our products are baked and then sold the next day,” Gartland added.
Like most other companies in the area, recruitment, hiring, and retention are concerns for Pan-O-Gold. Gartland talked about the opportunities the company provides its team, noting the wide range of careers that represent the brand. “We have truck drivers to sales to manufacturing to accountants under one roof. We should appeal to a lot of different skill sets. On the manufacturing floor especially, the diversity our area has seen in the past two decades has truly benefited our company. We’ve grown too.”
A Toast to Community
As Gartland mentioned, Pan-O-Gold closely manages its products to ensure freshness and brand standards. That doesn’t mean what isn’t sold in the short “fresh by” periods goes to waste. The company is one of Second Harvest Heartland food bank’s largest supporting sponsors. Annually, Pan-O-Gold donates more than one million loaves of bread and other products to organizations and individuals in need.
Aside from philanthropy, Gartland talked about the opportunities that await those considering Central Minnesota to call home. “I think St. Cloud Shines is an experimental platform for the city and provides a positive outlook for this area as a good place to live and work. People research the communities they’re interested in pursuing, just as students take stock of the opportunities that await them post-graduation in Central Minnesota.”
Gartland talked about the growth and improvement of St. Cloud, in particular, noting one of the biggest achievements being an emphasis and investment in local culture and arts. He said, “There is more to a rich life than careers and the company we work for; our community must provide us with the places and experiences we enjoy to round it out. The Paramount Center for the Arts, GREAT Theatre, Great River Children’s Museum, and The Ledge Amphitheatre, all exist to bring the community together to celebrate and enjoy the talent and passion this area represents.”