|Founded||Kansas City, Missouri (1902 , as Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company)|
John H. Wiles
|Headquarters||Elmhurst, Illinois, U.S.|
Sunshine Biscuits was an independent American baker of cookies, crackers, and cereals. The company, whose brand still appears today on a few products (e.g., Cheez-Its), was purchased by Keebler Company in 1996 which was subsequently purchased by Kellogg Company in 2000. Around that time, Sunshine Biscuits was headquartered in Elmhurst, Illinois, the same town in which Keebler was located until 2001.
At the time of its purchase by Keebler, Sunshine Biscuits was the third largest cookie baker in the United States.
Until the late 19th century, the biscuit/cracker industry was made up of small independent local bakeries preparing products and selling them in bulk. The barrels and crates of biscuits were delivered by horse and wagon, set out in the grocery store and sold to the consumer by the measure.
In 1890, a group of thirty-three midwest and western bakers combined to form the American Biscuit & Manufacturing Company. This consolidation was done primarily to compete with United States Baking Company, another midwest group and the New York Biscuit Company, an east coast conglomerate. Soon the American Biscuit and New York Biscuit groups were opening bakeries and lowering prices in each other's area in an attempt to eliminate the competition. Finally in February 1898 the competing groups combined 114 factories and formed the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco).
Although Joseph Loose was a member of Nabisco's Board of Directors, in 1902 along with his brother Jacob and John H. Wiles, he liquidated his holdings in National Biscuit Company and formed the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company in Kansas City. They envisioned a factory which would be filled with sunlight and so they adopted the name SUNSHINE for their products. Soon they began expanding and opened new plants in Boston and then New York. In 1912 Loose-Wiles opened their "Thousand Window" bakery on Long Island, which remained the largest bakery building in the world until 1955. The plant was closed in 1965 and the production was moved to Sayreville, New Jersey.
Loose-Wiles never registered their "Sunshine" brand name and therefore spent much effort in the first forty years trying to dissuade other companies from using the word "sunshine" or any related word on their product or in their advertising. Since Loose-Wiles claim was not based on a registered mark, they often had to investigate when and where the other company first used the word to determine which company had first claim so as not to lose their right to the name "Sunshine" for their own products. Finally in 1946, the Loose-Wiles Company officially changed its name to Sunshine Biscuit, Inc.
The early part of the company's history was dominated by developing new items and acquiring established brands from other smaller companies. Many of the products and their names are similar to those of their largest competitor, the National Biscuit Company. For example, Nabisco's first individually packaged cracker was named "Uneeda". Loose-Wile's cracker was "Takhoma". Loose-Wiles made "Trumps Cookies". Nabisco produced "Aces". Sunshine Biscuit had "Animal Crackers" Popeye, Orphan Annie, Andy Gump and "Toy Cookies". Nabisco produced "Barnum's Animals".
American Tobacco Company purchased the company in 1966. It was then sold to G. F. Industries, a privately held California company, and finally merged with Keebler Company in 1996.
Sunshine Biscuits made the Hydrox chocolate sandwich cream cookie, before it was discontinued in 1999. They were reintroduced in 2015, and are now made by Leaf Brands. Today, Sunshine is best known for the Cheez-It snack crackers, which are still marketed under the Sunshine brand, as are Krispy Crackers saltines. However, six well-known Sunshine brands were discontinued after the merger with Keebler: Chip-A-Roos, Chocolate Nugget cookies, Chocolate Fudge Cookies, Lemon Coolers, Golden Raisin Biscuits and Golden Fruit Biscuits. Sunshine originated Vienna Fingers cookies, which are now sold under the Keebler brand.
Currently branded products
- Cheez-It snack crackers
- Krispy saltine crackers
- Krispy Soup & Oyster crackers
- Hi-Ho Crackers (& Hi-Ho Cracker Crumbs)
- Nut Sunday Cookie
- Lemon Coolers (cookies, not to be confused with the product from Niche Foods, LLC)
- Yum Yums (coconut caramel cookies)
- Sunshine Nut Sunday marshmallow cookie
They also made a snack cracker line called American Heritage, Cherry Coolers, Fig Bars (not to be confused with Fig Newtons), a snack cracker line called International Snacks, a line of sandwich cookies with two flavors of creme in every cookie. Shredded Wheat was produced at the Sayreville NewJersey facility but only distributed east of the Mississippi.
- "Those Shelved Brands Start to Look Tempting". The New York Times, August 20, 2008, Stuart Elliot.
- "Look Who's Leaping From That Hollow Tree". The New York Times, January 25, 1998, Sharon King. January 25, 1998.
- "Keebler adds Sunshine business".
- Lukas, Paul. "Oreos to Hydrox: Resistance Is Futile." Business 2.0, March 1999, a copy of which was retrieved February 2008