* 5,000 plus - McKee Foods Corp. workforce company wide
* 790 - Total hires by the company since November 2012
* 295 - Hires in Collegedale since November
Source: McKee Foods Corp.
McKee Foods Corp. has added almost 300 jobs in Collegedale over the past 10 months as the snack-food company saw demand sweeten after the bankruptcy of competitor Hostess Brands.
Mike McKee, the company's chief executive and president, said the nation's No. 1 snack cake maker now employs between 2,500 and 3,000 people at its Hamilton County headquarters.
The business has more than 5,000 employees companywide, including its plants in Virginia and Arkansas and distribution center in Arizona, having boosted its overall hiring by nearly 800 since last November.
"When [Hostess] shut down, our business jumped tremendously," McKee said in an interview this week.
McKee said retailers suddenly found themselves with a big gap in their product pipeline after Texas-based Hostess, the maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread, announced last November it intended to wind down operations and put about 18,000 people out of work.
"We had 10 years worth of growth overnight," McKee said about the maker of Little Debbie products.
Hostess sought bankruptcy following years of management turmoil and turnover, with workers saying the company failed to invest in its brands. Hostess filed for its second Chapter 11 bankruptcy in less than a decade last January, citing costs associated with its unionized workforce.
Some of Hostess' brands were bought out of bankruptcy for $410 million by private equity firms Apollo Global
Management and C. Dean Metropoulous & Co. Earlier this summer, some of those products hit the market again.
McKee Foods purchased Hostess' Drake line for about $27 million. The privately held business this week started selling Drake snack cakes, popular in the Northeast, such as Ring Dings, Devil Dogs, Coffee Cakes and Yodels.
While it's too early to judge sales, McKee said he's heartened by the reception from distributors.
"Orders have been strong," he said. "I'm certain we'll have good success."
Ron Harr, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's chief executive, said he's encouraged by McKee Foods' new hiring. Typically, he said, about 80 percent of a community's job growth comes from hiring by existing companies.
Concerning the restart of Drake sales, this time by McKee Foods, Harr quipped that "Now we're feeding New Yorkers."
McKee said that through the company's profit-sharing event this month, employees saw the benefit of higher sales. He said the announced annual McKee sales figure of about $1.2 billion is "a little on the low side."
"It was a spectacular year," he said.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.