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Wonder Bread is the name of a brand of bread. It is sold in North American stores and produced by three distinct companies: in Canada by Weston Bakeries Limited, a subsidiary of George Weston Limited, in the United States of America by Flowers Foods, and in Mexico by Grupo Bimbo.
It was first sold in 1921 in the United States, and it later became one of the first to be sold pre-sliced, being marketed like this nationwide in 1930. This led to the popular phrase "the greatest thing since sliced bread", upholding a paragon of American innovation.
Wonder Bread was originally produced by the Taggart Baking Company of Indianapolis, Indiana and debuted on May 21, 1921, after a blind promotion with ads that only stated a "Wonder" was coming on May 21, 1921. When it was launched, the new brand was named by vice president for merchandising development Elmer Cline, who was inspired by the International Balloon Race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Cline was filled with "wonder" by the scene of hundreds of balloons creating a kaleidoscope of color resulting in the iconic red, yellow and blue balloons featured on the Wonder Bread logo. The logo was designed by commercial artist Drew Miller while he was on staff at a Chicago ad agency.
Taggart was purchased by Continental Baking in 1925. This made Wonder Bread a national brand and added "It's Slo Baked" to the logo. In the 1930s, Continental Baking began shipping Wonder Bread in sliced form, one of the first companies to do so and a significant milestone for the industry and for American consumers, who, at first, needed reassurance that "wonder-cut" bread would not dry out. Unsliced bread returned for a while during World War II due to a steel shortage that led to an industry-wide slicing suspension in 1943. Bread slicers returned two years later.
During the 1940s, Continental Baking began adding vitamins and minerals to Wonder Bread as part of a government-sponsored program of enriching white bread which was notoriously deficient in vitamin and mineral content, to combat certain diseases. Known as the "Quiet Miracle", this development is credited with greatly reducing the incidence of the diseases beriberi and pellagra. Wonder was also the first national bread brand to feature open dating as well as nutrition information on its packaging. In the 1950s, Wonder Bread further expanded advertising of its nutrient enrichments. The company sponsored Howdy Doody with host Buffalo Bob Smith telling the audience, "Wonder Bread builds strong bodies 8 ways. Look for the red, yellow and blue balloons printed on the wrapper." By the 1960s, Wonder Bread was advertised with the slogan "Helps build strong bodies 12 ways," referring to the number of added nutrients. In 1986, the lower-calorie Wonder Light bread was introduced.
In 1995, Continental Baking was bought by Interstate Bakeries Corporation, later known as Hostess Brands. In 2004, Interstate Bakeries declared bankruptcy, putting the future of Wonder Bread in some doubt. In February 2009 Interstate Bakeries emerged from bankruptcy marking a "new beginning" for the baking company.
In 2006 Wonder was one of the first bread brands to introduce whole grain white breads such as "Wonder Made with Whole Grain White" as a bread that appealed to consumers who loved the taste of white bread, but who were looking for more nutrition These breads were made with an albino wheat variety that doesn't have the more pronounced taste of whole red-wheat flour.
On August 28, 2007, Interstate Bakeries announced that would soon end production of Wonder Bread in the Southern California market, leading to a loss of 1,300 jobs. This was due to the judgment in the suit and a decline in sales, as Southern Californians in particular were partial to whole-grain breads and "premium" loaves. As of September 2009, Wonder Bread and other Hostess Brands breads, such as Home Pride, returned to Southern California supermarkets in response to significant consumer demand. In connection with the re-introduction, the company donated thousands of loaves of bread to the San Diego Food Bank and the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank to support their missions of providing food to people in need, advocating for the hungry and advancing human caring.
In August 2009 Wonder reformulated its Wonder Classic and Wonder Classic Sandwich bread varieties to include more calcium and vitamin D. Two slices of Wonder Classic and Wonder Classic Sandwich bread then provided 30% of the daily recommended intake of calcium, the same amount as 8 fluid ounces of whole milk.
Wonder 100% Whole Wheat (16 oz variety) qualified for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program in most states.
In March 2010 Wonder extended its line of bread products for families who preferred the taste of white bread, but wanted more nutrition, with the addition of Wonder Smartwhite a new bread with the taste and soft texture of white bread – but with the fiber of 100% whole wheat bread.
In 2011 Wonder bread launched its first national advertising campaign in years titled "Always Wonder". The campaign reminded mothers that new Wonder Smartwhite offered the nutrition families were seeking. The creative campaign played off the phrase "you wonder," by showing children doing quirky things, and added that "one thing you don't have to wonder about is the goodness of new Wonder".
On November 16, 2012, Hostess Brands, at that time the producer of Wonder Bread in the United States, filed a motion in United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York seeking permission to close its business and sell its assets under Chapter 11, Title 11, United States Code. On November 16, 2012, Hostess Brands closed its United States plants and began liquidation proceedings, thus ending production of Wonder Bread in the states. On January 11, 2013, Flowers Foods, owner of the Mrs. Freshley's and Tastykake brands, announced that it signed an agreement to acquire Hostess' bread brands, including Wonder Bread. On July 22, 2013, Flowers Foods completed its $355 million acquisition of several breads, bakeries and other assets from the company previously known as Hostess Brands including Wonder Bread.On September 12, 2013, it was announced that Wonder Bread will return to U.S store shelves. On September 23, 2013, Flowers Foods resumed delivery of Wonder Bread to stores.
Wonder Bread was produced six days a week. Consumers could determine on which day the loaf of bread was baked by the different colored bag ties:
Wonder Bread is manufactured in Canada by Weston Bakeries. This is not a license, since Weston owns the Wonder trademark in Canada, though the packaging is very similar to that found in the United States.
Wonder Bread began appearing on Canadian grocery shelves and home delivery routes as early as 1927. A product of Northern Bakeries Limited, the bread apparently made its debut in Montreal. Three years later, Wonder arrived in Toronto, baked by Nasmiths Limited. Newspaper ads proclaimed "Great news for the people of Toronto – it's here at last – the delicious Wonder Bread." Made from unbleached flour and "Slo-Baked," Wonder was said to produce "more slices and thinner slices" when cut, yet would not crumble. By 1934, "Sliced Wonder," an early version of sliced bread, was being promoted by the Ideal Bread Company Limited of Toronto, with no fewer "than 26 slices in a loaf."
By 1940, Wonder Bakeries Limited had become the maker of Wonder Bread in Canada, along with Hostess cakes and cookies, although local bakers continued to be the actual manufacturers. New products were introduced that included Wonder Melior, "a better white bread with natural wheat vitamins," as well as Wonder Peter Pan Bread, designed to appeal to children. Wonder Bakeries also became the maker of Hollywood Bread, marketed for those "counting calories" and trying to keep their "figure." During the 1960s, General Bakeries Limited became the maker of Wonder. Then, in July 1985, Weston Bakeries Limited, a subsidiary of George Weston Limited, acquired certain Ontario assets of General Bakeries, then owned by Dominion Stores Limited, that included not only bread and roll plants but also the trademark for Wonder in Canada.
Over the past decade, Weston Foods has added a number of new Wonder products to the brand's line-up, many of which are designed to appeal to parents and their concern for their children's nutritional needs. Among them is Wonder + Invisibles, a white bread with 18 whole grains and designed not to taste like whole grain bread. Most recently, Weston Bakeries Limited announced that its Wonder Bread brands will now be completely free of artificial preservatives, artificial colours or artificial flavours.
Wonder Bread is produced in Mexico by Grupo Bimbo, the largest baking company in the world. As with the Canadian Wonder Bread, this is not a license, since Bimbo bought the Wonder Bread brand and factories in Mexico; the package was the same as the one in the United States, but later changed.
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