Sterrett “Red” Campbell, who originated the design and manufacture of truly revolutionary equipment for the baking industry, died July 28. He was 84 years old.
A 2010 inductee into the American Society of Baking Baking Hall of Fame, Mr. Campbell was the founder of two equipment companies and the holder of several dozen-milestone patents that revolutionized high-speed bread and roll production.
He was a pioneer in dough movement and an innovator in extrusion technology, developing equipment for extrusion dividing of dough for bread and buns, and many important inventions of equipment for the baking industry.
From dough pumps and extruders to dough conveyors and more, he was known for working alongside bakers to make needed improvements to processing equipment and for making many process innovations that are still the standard in the industry today.
Born in Detroit, Mr. Campbell attended the University of Florida, where he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. Shortly after, while working as a plant engineer for General Foods, Mr. Campbell was presented the opportunity to interview for a sales job at Kordite in New York. At the time, Kordite was looking to ramp up its presence in the baking industry, and Mr. Campbell was looking to try his hand at sales.
When Mr. Campbell joined Kordite, plastic bread and bun bags were in their infancy, and with his engineering background he helped the company specify the equipment needed to use them in commercial bakeries. He also worked on plastic films that were both less expensive and had better characteristics than the more often used cellophane wrapper for supermarket use.
He later moved to New York to take a corporate position with Kordite and in the early 1960s started Pak-It Manufacturing, where he manufactured and sold various lines of packaging supplies and equipment, impacting both the supermarket and the baking industry. In the mid-1960s he moved his young company to Atlanta.
In 1980, Mr. Campbell developed the rotary, extrusion-style bread divider. The technology was a success and, in 1984, he sold Pak-It to a Fortune 500 company — AMF (Union Machinery Division). AMF successfully marketed the bread divider and in 1987 with Mr. Campbell’s help began development of the rotary/extrusion bun divider. In the late 1980s, the first such system was installed at New Southwest Baking in Bryan, Texas, producing buns for McDonald’s.
Mr. Campbell worked for AMF for a few years before retiring for the first time. As part of a contract that he signed with AMF at the time of his retirement, he spent the first two years doing consulting for AMF. Subsequent to that, he started a construction company.
But calls for his baking industry expertise continued. Finally an A.S.B. member, Bob Maike, gave him an unsolicited order for an advanced extrusion bun divider that he couldn’t refuse to build and once installed, John Whidman, supported by Roger Hanson, ordered a second unit thus guaranteeing the successful launch in 1990 of Campbell Technologies.
Joined by his sons Glenn and Bruce, Mr. Campbell “officially” came out of retirement with the establishment of Campbell Technologies. They then went on to develop a line of bun makeup and dough handling systems based on their newly patented single-screw pump. Today, hundreds of these pumps and dividers are in bakeries worldwide.
In 1997, AMF Bakeries called again and subsequently acquired CAMTECH. A few years later, Mr. Campbell retired once more but remained active in various research and development projects in the baking industry. After doing consulting work throughout the early 2000s, he and a group of former employees founded Atlanta-based Campbell Systems, Inc. late in 2008. CSI provides peel board equipment, dust collection systems and custom bakery automation.
According to the American Society of Baking, Mr. Campbell’s secret was two three-letter words: “why” and “why not?”