Little Debbie smiles up from North American lunch bags. McKee Foods' Little Debbie is one of the nation's best-known brands of snack cakes, named for and featuring the smiling face of the 4-year-old granddaughter of the company's late founders: O. D. and Ruth McKee. The company also makes ready-to-eat Sunbelt breakfast cereals, granola, creme-filled cookies, crackers, and snack bars. It boasts more than 100 varieties of Little Debbie-brand products. Adding to its menu of snacks, McKee acquired the regional Drake's snack cake brand from bankrupt Hostess Brands in 2013. McKee's baked goods are sold in the US, Canada, and Mexico. Founded in 1934, the bakery is still owned and operated by the McKee family.
In addition to Little Debbie, the company's brand names include Sunbelt (granola bars, cereals, and fruit-flavored snacks), and Heartland and Fieldstone Bakery (cookies, foodservice only). McKee also owns Blue Planet Foods, which makes granola cereals and preformed crumb pie crusts sold under the Heartland brand name, and Drake's Cakes (acquired in 2013).
McKee is based in Collegedale, Tennessee (where it has two production facilities) and operates production facilities in Gentry, Arkansas and Stuarts Draft, Virginia. The company has a distribution facility in Kingman, Arizona.
Sales and Marketing
The company's McKee Foods Transportation unit distributes both Little Debbie snacks and Sunbelt bakery products within the continental US and in Canada. The subsidiary delivers Drake's cakes in the Northeastern region of the US.
McKee Foods logged annual sales of about $1.4 billion in 2015.
After acquiring the Drake's snack cake brand following the failure and breakup of Hostess Brands, McKee initially relaunched the four most popular cakes -- Devil Dogs, Coffee Cakes, Ring Dings, and Yodels -- in the Northeast in late 2013.
Product development is key in the highly competitive snack market, and McKee Foods steadily puts out offerings to keep it in the forefront of the snack-food world. It has introduced Little Debbie Chocolate Cupcakes in keeping with the popularity of cupcakes (and also to compete head-to-head with rival
). McKee also offers smaller versions of its Little Debbies. Containing only 100 calories each, they are aimed at consumers watching their weight. Family packs of individually wrapped treats and consistently low prices also drive sales.
Mergers and Acquisitions
McKee was the winning bidder at a bankruptcy auction for Drake's Cakes. It acquired the Drake's brand and certain equipment for $27.5 million in March 2013