The economy’s continuing struggles, exacerbated by inflation, during the past 12 months led to another year of challenges for many of the Mid-Atlantic’s wholesale grocers. Inflation in virtually all sectors commodity prices – wheat, corn, dairy, meat, produce and fuel – continued to affect the wholesale cost of goods. As a result, wholesalers, chains s and independents alike felt were challenged to hold pricing at reasonable levels. And, as the number of true independents continues to shrink, wholesalers are more aggressive in maintaining their current client rosters while also seeking new opportunities.
New England based wholesalers like Bozzuto’s and C&S Wholesale Grocers continued to make gains in the Mid-Atlantic, while North Carolina based Merchants Distributors Inc. has begun soliciting accounts in Maryland and Virginia.
One company that continued to perform solidly despite those challenges was Wakefern. The food industry’s largest grocery co-operative rang up estimated wholesale sales of $9.5 billion for 2011. It supplied 220 ShopRite stores and another 40 PriceRite discount units as well as the several strong independent customers. In the past year, Wakefern expanded its ShopRite and PriceRite rosters, continuing to add units in its core New Jersey and Pennsylvania market as well as expanding into Connecticut and Maryland. Wakefern saw a changing of the guard during the past year as long-time president Dean Janeway retired and Joe Sheridan moved into the post.
C&S Wholesale Grocers ranked second among all full-service distributors in the region. The Keene, NH based wholesaler has made its mark on the industry as a third-party distributor to larger chains. Volume for the year was $8.3 billion, with approximately 1,341 stores serviced. C&S lost some volume with A&P’s significant number of store closings in the market during the past 12 months. C&S did, however, negotiate a new supply agreement with the Tea Company, which is now set to exit bankruptcy after the first of the year. C&S added a portion of Giant/Landover’s dry grocery business and continued to grow with portions of Target’s expansion into grocery (P Fresh). In addition to supply agreement in the market with Giant/Landover and A&P, C&S remains a strong third party supplier with additional Ahold business and the supervision of Safeway’s Eastern Division warehouse in Upper Marlboro, MD.
The wholesale division of Supervalu during the past year lost the Fairway business in Metro New York to White Rose, but just before presstime announced that it would add 22 of Western Beef’s conventional stores and five of their limited assortment stores in New York and New Jersey to its roster. The Eastern Division had wholesale volume of $4.78 billion with service to approximately 836 stores in the market, making it one of Sueprvalu’s best producing units. The division supplies some of the highest volume independents in the Mid-Atlantic, including Redner’s, B. Green, Graul’s, Murphy’s and McCaffrey’s.
Ranking next was the McLane Company, the largest convenience store distributor in the country. Primarily operating in this region from a 653,000 square foot depot in Falmouth, VA (one of 19 grocery warehouses the company operates nationally), McLane’s wholesale volume in the region is estimated to be $2.2 billion. Its major accounts are 7-Eleven and Wawa.
With 61 club stores in the Mid-Atlantic, BJ’s now ranks fifth among all wholesale companies in the region. Wholesale volume for Costco, as well as Sam’s Club and BJ’s. have been extrapolated to include sales of grocery, HBC, general merchandise and tobacco. Utilizing that formula, BJ’s rang up Mid-Atlantic sales of $1.9 billion. The club operator was acquired during the year by private equity firm Leonard Green and is no longer publicly traded.
Club store operator Costco followed with 44 high volume Mid-Atlantic locations amassing sales of $1.75 billion. Corporately, Jim Sinegal, founder and foundation of Costco, retired. He was replaced by his right hand man of many years Craig Jelinek.
The area’s third club store operator, Sam’s, was up next. The division of Wal-Mart operated 48 Mid-Atlantic warehouse stores that saw sales of $1.31 billion during the past 12 months.
Associated Wholesalers Inc. (AWI) is the largest wholesale cooperative operating in the Mid-Atlantic. The company’s primary distribution center is based in Robesonia, PA and it also operates a secondary facility in York, PA. AWI serviced 963 retail stores and rang up sales of $1.2 billion. During the past year, company president Bernie Ellis departed and Bill Donovan was promoted to EVP of sales and merchandising. The company continued to do a solid job serving mainly independent retailers in the Central Pennsylvania area, including multi-store operators such as McKay’s, Kennie’s. Darrenkamp’s, Stauffer’s of Kissel Hill and Lauer’s.
White Rose, a division of AWI based in Carteret, NJ services independent groups in the metro New York market and also is the primary supplier of the Delaware valley area’s Thriftway and Shop ‘n Bag stores. White Rose volume for the year is estimated at $1.15 billion with 1,550 locations serviced. After losing the Foodtown group’s business in 2010, White Rose gained momentum with the addition of 10 high volume Fairway Markets stores in the metro New York region.
United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), grew its business during the year when it became the specialty food supplier to Safeway nationally . The Providence, RI based company serviced approximately 471 stores in the Mid-Atlantic with approximately $660 million in volume.
Burris Retail Logistics, which carved out its reputation distributing frozen foods saw a change in leadership over the past year. Mark Tarzwell left the company as Donnie Burris assumed the CEO position after his father Bob Burris passed away. The Milford, DE based company, which operates Mid-Atlantic depots in Harrington, DE; New Castle, DE; Elkton, MD; Federalsburg, MD; Rocky Hill, CT; and Springfield, MA garnered $500 million in wholesale volume over the past 12 months. The company recently renewed its supply agreement with fast-growing The Fresh Market, which operates 107 stores east of the Mississippi.
Cooper-Booth, based in Mountville, PA where it maintains a 100,000 square foot depot had a volume of $378 million at its approximately 1,471 accounts serviced in the Mid-Atlantic.
Bozzuto’s continued to build its infrastructure in the Mid-Atlantic, doing business in the region from a distribution center in Allentown, PA. Its approximately 106 retail accounts in the market helped it garner $345 million in Mid-Atlantic volume.
Next up is Eby-Brown ($339 million), operating warehouses in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Brooklyn, NY.
Other wholesalers in the area included: Eby Brown ($341 million); Merchant’s Grocery ($130 million), Quality Foods, which acquired by HT Hackney last year ($98 million); B. Green ($80 million) and Economy Wholesale ($6.7 million).