At King Arthur Flour, Savoring the Perks of Employee Ownership

 

Last month, a recipe for lemon cake filled with pastry cream and lemon curd spread quickly on Facebook, garnering 6,200 shares and 9,900 likes. Of the 300-plus commenters, some had followed the recipe and were displaying photos of their frosted creations, while others asked baking questions or inquired about dairy- and gluten-free versions of the recipe. Another contingent was just plain hungry. “I need a piece of that cake right now,” one person wrote.

The recipe and the Facebook page are those of King Arthur Flour, which began importing flour to Boston from Britain in 1790. Now based in Norwich, Vt., the company makes and sells its own products, including dozens of flours along with baking supplies and equipment.

Jesse Cloutier, the company’s digital engagement supervisor, quickly wrote a playful reply to the Facebook user who was desperate for an immediate lemon-cake fix. “We’ve got a piece right here that we’ll be happy to mail to yo…,” Mr. Cloutier wrote. “Oh! Oh dear. I’m afraid there are only a few crumbs lef — aaaaaand those are gone too.”

Mr. Cloutier isn’t just on staff at King Arthur Flour; like 340 other employees, he’s also a partial owner of the company.

Since 2004, King Arthur Flour has been 100 percent employee-owned. After the first year of employment, all workers who log more than 800 hours a year, including seasonal and part-time laborers, are eligible for the employee stock ownership program, or ESOP.

ESOPs are retirement plans that function much like 401(k)’s, but with one enormous difference: The company fully funds ESOPs without any financial contributions by employees.

 

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