24 June, 2008

Is This The End of White Lily Flour?

For over a century, White Lily flour has been milled in Knoxville Tennessee using a special process from soft red winter wheat. The unique qualities of the wheat, along with special milling and bleaching processes, make White Lily flour unique - slightly higher in protein than cake flour, but lower than all-purpose flour - and it's status as a regional product found almost exclusively in the South has given it a special niche status as THE flour that southern cooks turn to for tender biscuits and pie crusts, in much the same way that New Englanders turn to King Arthur flour (milled in Vermont.)

Sadly however, 125 years of regional pride and distinction may be on the verge of being lost forever. The company has recently been acquired by the J M Smucker Co., which is shutting down the Knoxville plant and moving milling operations to Smucker's home state of Ohio. Although they have promised that the process for making White Lily flour will be the same as ever - even claiming in a press statement that the new factory has been a secondary producer for White Lily under contract for "generations" - Southern bakers are suspicious and skeptical. In a blind test conducted for a recent New York Times newspaper article, two bakers were able to distinguish the "new" flour in a blind test just by sight and texture. This doesn't bode well for the brand.

I have to admit that I find Smucker's decision to close the Knoxville plant puzzling, coming as it does when people are becoming more aware of local sourcing for their foods and ingredients. There are millions of people in the South who have come to love and trust the White Lily brand, and its status in areas of the country where it is sold is practically elevated to that of myth. Hundreds of thousands of bakers have never used another flour in their entire lives. I just don't understand why Smucker's would jeopardize such a huge and loyal market segment.

If you're passionate about White Lily Flour and want to try to change Smucker's mind about closing the Knoxville mill, I urge you to ignore any ridiculous online petitions that you might find on the internet. Online petitions are worse than worthless: They are ignored by the companies they target, and are not taken seriously by anyone in a position to change policy anywhere. Your best bet is to find some paper, a pen, and a stamp and write to the Customer Service department. Here's Smucker's address:

The J.M. Smucker Co.
1 Strawberry Lane
Orrville, Ohio 44667-0280

You may also choose to click here to visit Smucker's online feedback form at their website.


1 comment:

Southern Plate said...

This post just made my heart stop. In practically every post I put up on my site, I go on and on about White Lily flour.
I have written them both physically and through their online submit button.
Thank you!