AB Mauri Fleischmann’s Yeast Plant Is Expanding

By Ted Evanoff – Memphis Commercial Appeal – Monday, April 6, 2020

Fleischmann’s made enough yeast last year to supply a loaf of bread daily for the next 15 years for every man, woman and child living in Memphis. Now, yeast output is rising. Americans want bread as they shelter in place.

Janice Williams is hiring people these days.

Sure, the economy is slowing, layoffs rising.

Lots of folks must shelter in place in our coronavirus besotted time, maybe step outside for a quick grocery store run. But guess what? People love bread.

And that means molasses by the ton still rolls up in train tanker cars on one side of this Memphis factory. Five days later, after a little chemistry magic, out of the vats comes more of a yellowish looking cream than you might ever imagine existed on earth. It’s called yeast. Bakers have to have it.

Enough flowed out of the Fleischmann’s Yeast plant last year to make a loaf of bread daily, every day of the week, week in and week out for the next 15 years for every man, woman and child living in Memphis.

That’s a lot of bread — about 3.5 billion loaves.

Even though most restaurants have closed for the duration and Americans eat at home more often now, one of the things they are putting more of on the table, or in the freezer, is bread.
So commercial bakers need more yeast. And Williams, operations manager at the 53-employee Fleischmann’s plant at 2743 Riverport Road, needs more workers.

”“We’ve seen a 10% to 20% increase in demand in just the last couple of weeks,” Williams said of yeast orders.

Currently she plans to hire seven skilled workers comfortable in an automated factory and capable at tasks such as industrial maintenance.

The plant, built in 1990 and still owned by St. Louis-based AB Mauri North America, had been leanly staffed. With orders rising, Williams said, she plans to continue running the factory on three shifts around the clock and wants a fuller crew to be able to provide vacation and leave time for employees.

Yeast looks the color of pancake mix as the cells multiply in vast tanks. After four days of growth, and a fifth day for quality checks, the yeast is shipped in 24-ton tanker loads. Destinations include the commercial ovens throughout the country operated by major bakers including Bimbo, Flowers and Kroger.