NAPERVILLE, Ill., Feb. 4, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- KeHE Distributors, LLC (KeHE) celebrates a year of continued growth, stability and accomplishment in 2018. The company's 2017 success continued in 2018 with a dialed in national distribution infrastructure, strong sales growth, trade show enrichment, enhanced technology, and a renewed commitment to impact employees, partners, our communities and the world for good.
Infrastructure Stability Leads to Sales Growth
KeHE's distribution centers operated with excellence and at optimal capacity. In a year with minimal integration activity, following several years of acquisitions, performance was strong across each of KeHE's business segments. The Company's fresh business continued to strengthen with a fully integrated fresh portfolio following the acquisition of Monterrey Provisions in 2016. KeHE foraged for innovative products and brought nearly 15,000 new SKUs into the network. Categories like sweeteners, pet, meat snacks, ready-to-drink teas and coffees saw more than 20% growth in 2018.
Solid Sales Growth
To ensure each customer receives specialized attention, KeHE's U.S. distribution business is organized into four retail channels. Powered by new customer acquisitions in the Northeast and Northwest, and expanded agreements with established regional anchors and INFRA, the independent sales channel, approached double-digit growth in 2018.
"Independents continue to be innovation leaders in the rapidly-changing, omni-channel, food retailing world. They are the fastest to adapt and differentiate their in-store experience to serve their customers," remarked Brad Helmer, Executive Vice President, Independent Sales, Marketing and Business Development, KeHE.
There was also significant expansion within large chain natural accounts. KeHE's landmark seven-year partnership agreement with Sprouts accelerated KeHE's operational performance in multiple distribution centers. Also, the addition of Thrive Market to the customer portfolio provides an additional growth platform for KeHE in the ever-changing online food marketplace. Finally, the chain grocery channel outpaced other channels, as many anchor retailers posted noteworthy sales gains.
Tree of Life, KeHE's Canadian subsidiary, created Tree of Life National Foodservice, a one-stop solution that provides sales & marketing, warehousing, inventory management, and logistic services to the entire Canadian foodservice industry. It is a strategic partnership between Binner Marketing and Sales, McCormack Bourrie Sales and Marketing, Performance Courtier Alimentaire and Concord National with the national capabilities from Tree of Life.
KeHE's 2018 shows garnered the prestigious Trade Show News Network's (TSNN) "Fastest Growing Show" Award, marking the fourth year in KeHE's winning streak. In 2018, these sold-out shows were robust sales-engines for its supplier partners with a 10% increase in retailer attendance. New & innovative brands flock to the KeHE shows as a way of introducing themselves to the food community and nearly one in five exhibitors are new suppliers to the marketplace.
KeHE looks forward to welcoming suppliers and retailers to the 2019 KeHE Summer Show this week in Nashville.
The 2018 shows were also a place for KeHE to share their own innovations. BrandDriver™ a new, online tool was unveiled at the Summer Show. Brand Driver™ enables brands (both new to and existing within KeHE's network) to engage, enable and fulfill orders via KeHE.
"We are sensitive to the demands on our suppliers- especially with the 'Amazon-impact.' BrandDriver™ has a proven method to allow our vendor partners to maintain brand and price integrity, which, in turn, helps our brick & mortar retail partners," said Gene Carter, Chief Operating Officer, KeHE.
IT Investment Doubles
2018 saw KeHE's investment in technology double to enable smoother transactions across the supply chain from ordering to shipping.
"Our supplier and retailer communities have told us what they need to be successful, and we listened. Their partnership has helped us create the best path to our future. Our goal is to make it easy to do business with us which will come in the form of new digital tools," commented Ari Goldsmith, Executive Director of Marketing, KeHE.
Brian Wilkinson, KeHE's Chief Information Officer continued, "We are busy creating the KeHE of the future. By increasing our functionality and integrating tools that are necessary for today's business, we're constantly striving to improve our technology tools that we need for today and tomorrow's business."
KeHE continued its CAREtrade® initiative, which supports businesses that advance a higher purpose with World Centric, Soulful Project, Bhakti, Nuttzo & This Bar Saves Lives joining the ranks as the 2019 partners. Partners from prior years saw sales increases that were up 90% thanks to the support and guidance provided by KeHE teams company-wide.
Commitment to Culture
Following its successful first two years as a Certified B Corporation, including being named a B Corp "2016 Rookie of the Year" by the nonprofit B Lab, KeHE continued its commitment to using business as a force for good by naming an Executive Director of Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility. Additionally, a Civility Code was created by employees to 'treat everyone with dignity and respect and address incivility with courage through empathy, trust, equality, and ownership.'
"Where KeHE Goes, Goodness Follows® is more than our motto, it's how we do business," said Brandon Barnholt, President and CEO, KeHE. "Our success is based on improving the lives of our partners, customers, and people in need. A deep tradition that continued through 2018 and one that we look forward to building on as we enter our 67th year."
For more information, visit KeHE.com.
KeHE Distributors, LLC (KeHE) provides Natural & Organic, Specialty and Fresh products to natural food stores, chain grocery stores, independent grocery stores and other specialty product retailers throughout North America. KeHE is the trusted B Corp Certified and employee-owned company with more than 5,500 employees in the U.S. and Canada. For more about KeHE, visit KeHE.com or check out our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, & LinkedIn.
MEDIA CONTACT: Ari Goldsmith
KeHE, Executive Director of Marketing
SOURCE KeHE Distributors, LLC