Remembering Charles Entenmann, builder of a baked goods empire

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Entenmann's today produces 1 billion doughnuts annually. Pic: BBU
Entenmann's today produces 1 billion doughnuts annually. Pic: BBU

Related tags Entenmann's Grupo bimbo Bimbo bakeries usa

The master baker, entrepreneur, philanthropist and son of the founder of Entenmann’s – who help grow his family’s bakery into a powerhouse brand in the Grupo Bimbo stable – died in Key Largo, Florida, on 24 February 2022, aged 92.
Charles Entenmann

Entenmann died ‘peacefully’, surrounded by family, according to his son, Charles William Entenmann.

“He was an extremely generous man,”​ Charles (jnr) told the media. “He was just a really intelligent guy … He had a fantastic sense of humour and was always playing jokes on people and having fun. He did it right.”

Charles (snr) is survived by his daughter, Susan Nalewajk; his son, Charles W. Entenmann; seven grandchildren; and ‘a plethora of great-grandchildren’.

Building a powerhouse brand

The Entenmann brand is instantly recognisable to Americans for its signature white and blue boxes filled with sugary confections such as cakes, muffins, cookies and donuts. Today, the brand is owned by Bimbo Bakeries USA – the North American arm of the Mexican bakery giant and the world’s largest bakery company – acquired in 2002 in a deal worth $610m.

“Bimbo Bakeries USA sends its condolences to the Entenmann family on the passing of Charles Entenmann,”​ said BBU in a statement.

“Charles was instrumental in turning the Entenmann’s brand into a household name and we will continue to build on the mission and legacy his family established more than 120 years ago.”

The family bakery was started by William Entenmann in 1989 in Brooklyn, New York. William was a baker from Stuttgart, Germany, who learned the trade from his own father.

Following medical advice after one of his children got rheumatic fever, he moved the bakery to Long Island in 1900.

The business was passed on to his wife, Martha, and his sons (Charles, Robert and William Jr) upon his death in 1951, beginning a journey that would see its products fill supermarket shelves across the country.

The focus shifted away from a home delivery model to supplying goods directly to grocery stores, expanding into New Jersey and Connecticut. In 1961, it built the largest baking facility of its kind in the US at the time, on five acres in Bay Shore – enabling further expansion across the US.

The Entenmann brothers introduced the brand’s see-through packaging, better to entice shoppers to ‘eat-with-their-eyes’.

The family sold Entenmann’s to Warner-Lambert in 1978 for $233m, which in today’s money, would be valued at more than $1bn. It has subsequently changed ownership several times, eventually settling in the BBU stable in 2002.

Today, Entenmann’s produces more than 100 varieties of baked goods in the US and makes 1 billion doughnuts annually.

Giving back


Beyond his business acumen, Charles Entenmann was a philanthropist and regularly gave back to the community – a legacy that is still synonymous with the Entenmann’s brand.

Charles was an ardent donor to the YMCA of Bay Shore and funded research for water quality and habitat in Great South Bay, and endowed Southside Hospital with a gift to establish the Entenmann Family Cardiac Centre.

He was also a Korean War veteran and founded Biolife, LLC, a company that produces various healthcare products to stop bleeding.

The family’s net worth is not publicly known, though his home in Key Largo is worth an estimated $9.97m, according to Zillow.

Charles did harbour a lifelong secret, though. According to his son, he didn’t eat his own products – “He just wasn't a dessert guy”.

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