C&S Top Grocery Wholesaler In Competitive Northeast Market; Mike Duffy Named CEO

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In the highly competitive battle among wholesale grocers, C&S Wholesale Grocers paced the field in a market study compiled by Food Trade News. The Keene, NH-based distributor also named Mike Duffy as its new chief executive, effective January 8.

Other wholesalers who fared well in the region were Wakefern Food Corp., the member-owned co-op whose ShopRite stores dominate the metro New York and Delaware Valley market and Supervalu’s Eastern Region, which also increased its sales and added several new customers during the past 12 months.

C&S, whose estimated wholesale sales were $17.1 billion in the coverage area ($28 billion overall), grew its independent retail business (including Key Food, Allegiance/Foodtown and Gerrity’s) over the past 12 months and continued to thrive with its core third-party chain distribution business which included such big customers as Ahold USA, Southeastern Grocers and parts of Albertsons business (Safeway, Shaw’s). C&S operated 17 distribution centers in the region. See page 16 for explanation of the coverage area.

Wakefern had another stellar year, adding more stores to its PriceRite and ShopRite foundation. The latter banner continued to produce some of the highest per store volumes among all retailers in the country. Wholesale revenue this year was estimated to be $13.1 billion.

At Supervalu’s Eastern Region, business was also healthy with estimated wholesale revenue at $6.8 billion in 2017. The Mechanicsville, VA-based region benefitted from the parent firm’s overall focus on improving its wholesale platform. During the past year, The Fresh Market and America’s Food Basket were added to SVU’s roster and the company hopes to continue to add new business with the additional “Market Centre” specialty, ethnic and organic dedicated distribution centers which will be added next year in Joliet, IL and Carlisle, PA. Supervalu will also be shifting its current Denver, PA depot (owned and soon to be operated by Albertsons) to another new warehouse in Harrisburg, PA in 2018.

Two of the largest national convenience store wholesalers – McLane and Core-Mark – dominated c-store distribution in the region. McLane’s 12 warehouses which served more than 6,000 stores (including many 7-Elevens) amassed estimated regional sales of $5.2 billion; and Core-Mark, with four distribution centers in the market, supplied more than 2,300 c-stores and amassed estimated annual wholesale sales of $1.95 billion.

UNFI, the largest wholesaler of organic and natural foods for the past 25 years, remained master of its domain. The Providence, RI-based wholesaler increased its business over the past 12 months with the acquisition of DSD- driven specialty distributors Haddon House and Gourmet Guru. Estimated 2017 sales for UNFI were $2.3 billion in our coverage area.

Family-owned wholesale grocers, the genesis of virtually all grocery distribution, remained an important part of the landscape, despite tremendous industry consolidation and disruption.

Bozzuto’s, owned by the Bozzuto family, continued its tradition of strong customer service and innovation. The Cheshire, CT-based wholesaler serviced approximately 1,100 independent stores from three distribution centers (many of the IGAs) and rang up wholesale sales of $2.2 billion in 2017.

Merchant Distributors, Inc., owned by the George family, remained the leading wholesaler in the Southeast, serving more than 700 stores (including Lowes Foods, the regional chain of nearly 100 stores that parent firm Alex Lee owns). Annual wholesale volume is estimated at $1.98 billion for the Hickory, NC-based firm.

Two metro New York based distributors – Krasdale (owned by the Krasne family) and General Trading (owned by the Abad family) – also fared well in this year’s survey.