Veteran wholesale executive Matt Saunders has been named executive VP and chief operating officer of Associated Wholesalers Inc. (AWI). In his new role, Saunders will be responsible for overseeing distribution, logistics, security and labor relations at both the Robesonia, PA co-op and its sister firm, White Rose, the voluntary wholesaler headquartered in Carteret, NJ. Saunders will be based in Carteret and is in the process of relocating to northern New Jersey.
According to AWI/White Rose chief executive Chris Michael, Saunders fills a new role in the organization as the $2.2 billion firm seeks greater centralization of its backroom operations.
Michael emphasized that all sales, merchandising and marketing functions will remain based locally in Robesonia and Carteret. Joe Fantozzi remains president of White Rose, and like Saunders, will report directly to Michael.
“I have known Matt Saunders for a long time. He has spent many years in the wholesale business and he possesses the type of skills we need to help consolidate our distribution and logistics functions,” Michael noted.
In an email sent by Saunders, he stated, “I am passionate about helping independents and I finally have the opportunity to be completely aligned with them through a co-op.”
A graduate of Cornell University, Saunders has spent much of his career at Supervalu (1995-2007), serving as VP-marketing and business development; VP-category management; VP-sales and marketing; and VP-merchandising. More recently (2007-2012), he was president of Merchants Distributors, Inc. (MDI), the voluntary wholesaler based in Hickory, NC, which is a division of Alex Lee, inc., the privately-held holding company that also owns retailer Lowes Foods.