Located in the Edge District of Memphis, Tennessee, the Wonder Bread factory was built in 1921, the same year that Taggart Baking Company of Indianapolis, Indiana launched the Wonder Bread brand. The brand was named by Elmer Cline, vice president for merchandising development, who was filled with “wonder” at the sight of hundreds of balloons at the International Balloon Race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This was also the inspiration for the iconic red, yellow and blue balloons featured on the Wonder Bread logo.
Continental Baking Company purchased Taggart in 1925. In 1930, Wonder Bread was one of the first brands to be sold pre-sliced nationwide, which is also where the popular phrase “the greatest thing since sliced bread” comes from. During the 1940s, vitamins and minerals were added to Wonder Bread, as part of a government-sponsored program of enriching white bread, which was incredibly deficient in vitamin and mineral content, in order to help combat certain diseases such as beriberi and pellagra. The nutritional value of Wonder Bread was greatly advertised with host Buffalo Bob Smith of the children’s show Howdy Doody sponsoring the brand on the show, telling the audience “Wonder Bread builds strong bodies 8 ways. Look for the red, yellow, and blue balloons printed on the wrapper.” By the 1960s, it was being advertised with the slogan, “Helps build strong bodies 12 ways”. Wonder Bread was also the first national bread brand to feature expiration dates as well as nutritional information on its packaging.
Interstate Bakeries Corporation purchased Continental Baking in 1995 but less than a decade later, Interstate Bakeries declared bankruptcy in 2004. In 2006, Wonder was one of the first bread brands to introduce whole grain white bread and later reformulated their recipe to include more calcium and vitamin D. In 2009, Interstate Bakeries emerged from bankruptcy as Hostess Brands, but would declare bankruptcy once again in 2012. This came after Hostess cut pay and benefits leading to a nationwide worker strike at their factories and distribution centers. After the Wonder Bread brand was sold to Flower Foods in 2013, the Memphis factory was shut down and would never reopen.
In 2017, Orion Federal Credit Union announced its plans to renovate the abandoned building and moving its headquarters there. The iconic signage atop the former factory is planned to be restored and will remain as part of the renovations.