Announcing the 2014 Rotary Person of the Year: Nan Gardetto

The Rotary Person of the Year (RPY) Award recognizes individuals, executives and entrepreneurs who have made the Milwaukee community a better place to live and work. The Award recognizes significant contributions and leadership in the advancement of ideas, products or services.


Earlier this year the Rotary Club of Milwaukee selected Nanette (Nan) Gardetto as the Rotary Person of the Year for      2014. We will honor Nan, Owner and Chief Executive Officer of Baptista’s Bakery in a presentation ceremony on June 10th .  Fans of a good rye chip will recognize the name!


A few weeks ago, Snyder's-Lance Inc., the snack manufacturer that produces Snyder's of Hanover pretzels, announced it entered into a letter of intent to acquire Baptista's Bakery for $195 million. Baptista's currently supplies Snyder's-Lance with its growing Snack Factory Pretzel Crisp brand.

From 1975 to 1999 Nan served as executive vice president of Gardetto’ s Bakery, Inc., a family business her grandfather founded as an Italian bakery in 1932. Nan spearheaded Gardetto’s popular snack mixes starting in 1981 and grew the business by 1998 from 52 to 250 employees, with sales in excess of $100,000,000 and a second plant in the Franklin Business Park.  Recognizing that continued sales growth would require the tremendous investment  in advertising and shelf-slotting capacity available only from one of the food industry giants the family sold Gardetto’s Bakery, Inc. to General Mills in 1998.


Immediately following the sale, Nan started and located Baptista’s Bakery, Inc. in the former Gardetto’s Franklin facility, keeping the new venture in Southeastern Wisconsin.  While continuing to make products for General Mills, Baptista’s introduced high-end bread sticks and bread toasts. They also make private label products for mass retailers such as Target, Wal-Mart, Weight Watchers and Pepperidge Farms.


Total employment expanded from 45 employees to approximately 375.  In 2012, the company invested $75,000,000 in an approximately 125,000 square-foot expansion to the existing Franklin production facility. In 2013, the company was recognized by the Wisconsin Business Journal as one of southeastern Wisconsin’s fastest growing firms, experiencing a 99% sales growth between 2010 and 2012.


Recently, the BizTimes named Nan the 2014 Woman Executive of the Year, and Snyder’s-Lance announced the letter of intent to acquire Baptista’s Bakery Inc.  Nan indicates she will contribute a major portion of the sale proceeds to her new foundation, the Every Day Good Foundation.


Nancy Sennett, who nominated Nan for Rotary Person of the year, says, “Nan has said that she is in the business of improving people’s lives.  She believes that if her product helps people come together, and makes at least one day more enjoyable for someone, then she’s completed her mission.”


Nan is an entrepreneur, who, while having opportunities to start a company elsewhere, chose to remain in Southeastern Wisconsin. Through innovation, leadership and determination, she expanded the enterprise and made Southeastern Wisconsin a better place to live and work. Please join us at our June 10th luncheon to honor Nan as the 2014 Rotary Person of the Year.