“About a year ago we changed our nomination format to focus primarily on one criteria: positive impact on the baking industry,” said Rowdy Brixey, president, Brixey Engineering, and chair of the Baking Hall of Fame Selection Committee. “This year’s inductees demonstrate just that.”
This year’s inductees to the Baking Hall of Fame are Fred Springer, retired chief executive officer of Burford Corp.; Norman Borlaug, PhD, an American agronomist; Robert Benton, retired executive vice president of network optimization for Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga.; and Erin Sharp, retired group vice president of general manufacturing for The Kroger Co.
“Fred Springer has represented the supplier community to the baking industry more than anyone,” Mr. Brixey said as he introduced Mr. Springer.
Starting as a controller at Burford in 1973, Mr. Springer worked his way up through the company and eventually to the role of president in 2006 and CEO in 2010. Under his leadership, Burford Corp. became a well-respected equipment supplier to the baking industry. Mr. Springer is known for his service to the industry not only through official roles but also to the many in the industry who call him mentor.
Mr. Springer has served on the ASB Executive Committee and on the Board of Directors for ATBI and BEMA. He has also been chairman of BEMA and AIB International in addition to being on the AIB Board of Trustees and ATBI president. Mr. Springer was awarded the Robert A. Fischer Distinguished Service Award in 2013 and the BEMA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018, which was then named after him. He also served as chairman of technology from 2013 to 2019 for the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE), and on the ASB Baking Hall of Fame Selection Committee from 2010-2022.
Dr. Borlaug, who was born in 1914 and died in 2009, is the American agronomist credited as the father of the Green Revolution for his work developing high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties. Dr. Borlaug introduced those wheat varieties and modern agricultural techniques to Mexico, Pakistan and India. From 1965 to 1970, wheat yields doubled in Pakistan and India, greatly increasing food security for populations in those countries.
“He is credited with saving over a billion people from worldwide starvation,” said Kristen Spriggs, ASB executive director.
For his efforts, Dr. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
Mr. Benton began his career in 1980 at Flowers Foods’ baking facility in Tuscaloosa, Ala., working his way up through plant management and eventually into corporate management. He oversaw the design and construction of 10 new facilities and updated all of the company’s facilities throughout his long career. His efforts helped transform Flowers from a regional baking business into the second largest baking company in the United States.
“Not only has Mr. Benton had an extremely successful and remarkable career, but he is also an exceptional leader,” Mr. Brixey said. “Mr. Benton has been a mentor to numerous individuals both within Flowers and within this industry.”
Mr. Benton was named Baking & Snack’s Operations Executive of the Year in 2001, he served as ASB chair from 2008 to 2009, and most recently served on the Baking Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He was also heavily involved in BEMA, AIB, the American Bakers Association (ABA) and IBIE throughout his career.
Ms. Sharp’s leadership in bakery manufacturing over Kroger’s network of 33 manufacturing facilities was described by colleagues as skillful and thoughtful, but her leadership with people stands out. Calvin Kaufman, senior vice president of retail operations, Kroger, recalled that during a tour of one of the bakeries, she not only showed an eye for progress but an impressive connection with associates at all levels of the plant.
Ms. Sharp also served as ABA’s first female chair. Robb MacKie, former president and CEO of ABA, described Ms. Sharp as a servant leader who understood her importance as a role model. She looked back on her time as chair, saying: “As the ABA chair, it was an opportunity to really have an impact on an industry that I love and to hopefully help better not only the baking industry but the food industry at-large. From a personal standpoint, being able to be the first woman chair was something that meant something to me as a woman leader in manufacturing.”
These new inductees to the Baking Hall of Fame will be celebrated at ASB’s BakingTech 2024 conference, held in Chicago, Feb. 27-29, 2024. To watch the announcement at the Bundy Baking Museum, visit ASB’s Facebook page.