McKee Foods

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McKee Foods Corporation
Industry Food processing
Headquarters Collegedale, Tennessee, United States
Key people
O.D. McKee,[1] Mike McKee, Rusty McKee, Angie McKee, Ellsworth McKee, Jack McKee, Cole Smith
Products Little Debbie snacks
granola bars
Number of employees
5,800 (As of September 2012[2]

McKee Foods Corporation is a privately held United States snack food and granola manufacturer headquartered in Collegedale, Tennessee.[3] The corporation is the maker of the Little Debbie Snacks, Sunbelt Bakery granola and cereal, Heartland Brands, and Drake's cakes. McKee Foods has its own fleet of trucks to distribute its products.


The company was founded during the Depression by O.D. and Ruth McKee. O.D. started out selling cakes from his 1928 Whippet in the Chattanooga area. Wanting to expand, he bought a small bakery, Jack's Cookie Company. The bakery did well for a few years, but O.D. was still looking to expand. His father-in-law, however, didn't share his ideas. O.D. decided to sell his business and start over.

The McKees moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, into a new bakery designed by O.D. After some time, they sold the Charlotte plant. They moved back to Chattanooga in the early 1950s when Cecil King, Ruth's brother, was in poor health and needed the help. They decided to buy back the bakery, and run it themselves.

McKee Baking Company moved to Collegedale in 1957. In 1991, McKee Baking Company became McKee Foods Corporation.

The son of McKee Foods’ founder O.D. McKee, Ellsworth McKee took over, but retired from day-to-day operations in September 2012, but retains the position of company chairman.[2]

It was announced January 28, 2013, that McKee Foods would pay $27.5 million for Hostess Brands' Drake's brand, which includes Ring Dings, Yodels, and Devil Dogs products.[4] The bankruptcy court approved this purchase on April 9, 2013.[5]

As of 2013, McKee ships more than 900 million cartons of Little Debbie products.[6]

Little Debbie name[edit]

The brand Little Debbie is better known than the company itself. Debbie is the granddaughter of founders O.D. and Ruth McKee, and daughter of Ellsworth McKee, the current chairman of the board and chief administrative officer.

In the 1960s, the McKees decided to name a product after one of their grandchildren, 4 year old Debbie. The photo was taken by a company called Olan Mills. The original photo was black-and-white, and an Atlanta artist, Pearl Mann, did the original color artwork. She made Debbie look older, around 8 or 9. Minor changes were made to the photo in 1987.


McKee Food brands
Little Debbie logo (1985–2014)[6]
Sunbelt logo 2002–09
Drake's logo

Little Debbie[edit]

"Little Debbie" redirects here. For the American recording artist, see Lil Debbie.
Little Debbie products
Cosmic Brownie
Nutty Bar
Swiss Cake Roll
Zebra Cake

Little Debbie products are primarily cookie and cake-based dessert snacks. They come in dozens of varieties, including the top-selling Swiss Cake Rolls, Nutty Bars, Cosmic Brownies and Oatmeal Creme Pies.[7] Little Debbie products are available in most discount, grocery, and convenience stores, both in boxes and individual wrappings.

In the 1960s, company founders O.D. and Ruth McKee decided to name a product after one of their grandchildren, four-year-old Debbie. The original image of Debbie used on packaging and advertising was based on a black-and-white photo. Artist Pearl Mann of Atlanta created the original color artwork. Following instructions, she made the little girl look older, around 8 or 9.[8] Minor changes were made to the logo in 1985 and again in 2013.[6]

The Little Debbie brand sponsored the Wood Brothers #21 Ford Fusion for several years in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The brand switched to the #47 JTG Daugherty Racing team in 2009 season. From sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, the Little Debbie logos are covered or removed, and the crew wears non-Little Debbie attire as a condition of sponsorship because McKee Foods was founded and is run by owners who are Seventh-day Adventists.[9]

Sunbelt Bakery[edit]

Sunbelt Bakery products include a variety of granola bars, fruit snacks, and cereals.


Main article: Drake's Cakes

Drake's is a baking company in Wayne, New Jersey, United States. Originally an independent company, Hostess owned Drake's from 1998 to 2012; McKee Foods acquired the Drake's line when Hostess liquidated in bankruptcy in 2012. The Drake's brand distributes snack cakes such as Ring Dings, Yodels, Devil Dogs, Yankee Doodles, Sunny Doodles, Funny Bones, and coffee cake. Their mascot is a smiling duck holding a spoon and wearing a chef's hat and neckerchief.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "McKee Foods Corporation - About our Company". Retrieved 2012-11-17. 
  2. ^ a b Smith, Ellis (September 15, 2012). "Little Debbie's Dad to sell Ooltewah mansion". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved 2013-05-13. Today, his privately held company employs some 5,800 workers, producing more than 160 types of snacks for the North America market. McKee is semi-retired now, serving as company chairman. 
  3. ^ "Corporate Fact Sheet." McKee Foods. Retrieved on November 17, 2012. "Street address: 10260 McKee Road Collegedale, TN 37315"
  4. ^ "Stock Market & Financial Investment News". The fly on the Wall. Retrieved 28 January 2013. 
  5. ^ David Flessner, "McKee completes purchase of Drake’s Cakes from bankrupt Hostess", "Chattanooga Times Free Press, April 9, 2013
  6. ^ a b c "The Little Debbie logo gets a makeover". Modern Baking. May 8, 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-13. Here are some of the changes that have been made to the Little Debbie logo:
    • Little Debbie's auburn hair is darker and has fewer curls.
    • She's wearing a more updated plaid shirt with a rounded "Peter Pan collar". (She wore a lace-embroidered pointed collar before.)
    • She's still wearing the straw hat, but the hat string–which is called a "stampede string"–was removed.
    • The red ribbon, with the name Little Debbie on it, also now has a more contemporary style. 
  7. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 2012-11-17. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Jayski's NASCAR Silly Season Site - Sprint Cup Team News and Links - #47". Retrieved 29 October 2010. Little Debbie sponsorship note: The #47 team primary sponsor, Little Debbie snacks, is run by Seventh Day Adventists. From sundown Friday till sundown Saturday, the team has to cover all Little Debbie logos on the hauler, wear non-Little Debbie attire and remove all Little Debbie decal from the race car. (Autoweek, 3-16-2006) 

External links[edit]