Consumer Foods Cluster Grows With Arrival of Stevens Robert Desserts

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The Southeast’s strong traditions in manufacturing and agribusiness have yielded enviable success in an industry that combines both: consumer foods processing. As of 2010, for instance, the cluster employed 24,756 in the region. Earlier this year, Steven Roberts Original Desserts became the latest national name to join the region’s food industries, a list that includes familiar names like Smithfield, House of Raeford and Campbell Soup.

Colorado-based Steven Roberts Original Desserts, LLC, selected a vacant bakery in Pembroke for a $4 million East Coast expansion that will result in 342 jobs. The company supplies cakes, pies, cookies and other desserts to Darden Restaurants, whose popular brands include Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze and Red Lobster. Steven Roberts items are also distributed through its Tickleberry Desserts unit through top retailers like Whole Foods, Sam’s Club and Target Corp. The company’s 19-month site search considered locations in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee prior to the selection of a 100,000-sq.-ft. facility in Pembroke that formerly housed Smith’s Bakery.

 “The company will supply its entire East Coast customer base through its new location in the Southeast Region,” explained Joe Melvin, marketing director at North Carolina’s Southeast Commission. The Commission’s regional marketing efforts initially drew privately-held Steven Roberts attention and helped shepherd the project to success.

 “We’re thrilled to be part of the Pembroke community and we look forward to having our Pembroke team members help us continue to be first to market with our trendsetting desserts,” said Charles Kosmont, the company’s chairman, upon announcing the choice. Steven Roberts was drawn to Pembroke based on the availability of an existing bakery, the community’s convenient mid-Atlantic location and strong labor base. The firm’s move was supported by a $394,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund, a program administered by the North Carolina Department of Commerce. “This facility allows us to expand our production, add manufacturing and shipping redundancy, and continue our leadership role in scaling dessert production to our clients’ needs,” Mr. Kosmont explained.