Innovation has been the lifeblood of Favorite Foods, whether it is marketing an association of its restaurant customers to consumers, introducing innovative new products to customers at its annual food show, burning biodiesel in its leased delivery trucks, leasing its warehouse space or overcoming the winter slump by supplying schools.

For some, the names of AHD International LLC’s offerings may not be immediately familiar, but the final products that they are used in are quite common and easily recognizable. Based in Atlanta, the company is a natural ingredient supplier that is on the “cutting edge” of the food and beverage marketplace, says Steve Gallo, general manager of AHD’s food and beverage ingredient division.

Salinas, Calif. – the salad bowl of the United States made famous by novelist John Steinbeck in “East of Eden” – used to be as overflowing with food brokers as a well-tossed Caesar salad. Family owned companies or ones like The Fresh Network, which is owned by three partners who started the business 25 years ago, are the norm now in Salinas.

The end of prohibition produced a number of business opportunities and new markets for entrepreneurs nationwide, and Shore Point Distributing Co. founders James and Agnes Annarella took advantage immediately. The two obtained a wholesale distribution license and began selling Horton’s Beer.

Warehouse clubs specialize in mass marketing – literally. They offer larger boxes of products, bigger pastries and giant slabs of meat. At warehouse clubs, bigger is better. “We deal with the larger quantities of products – a 64-ounce bundt cake, 24 mini-croissants,” says Marc Garcia, co-owner of Pacific West Foods Distributing. “Most of our breads are not sold by the loaf but in a twin pack. As the packages grow in size, the price is reduced.”

After 47 years, Lipari Foods has grown from a one-man show to a distribution company that employs more than 600 people. The company reaches supermarkets and sandwich shops within a 600-mile radius of its 270,000-square-foot warehouse in Warren, Mich.

Finest Food Distributing Co. has a straightforward philosophy: “Hands-on and let’s go.”
“Our culture is to get into our work, put our hands on it and be passionate,” says Steve Adelstein, treasurer and vice president of Finest. “We’re hands-on with our products, our warehousing, and our sales force; we have humble beginnings and try not to forget that.”

If a person’s diet focuses too heavily on pizza – with its gooey cheese, spicy meats, rich tomato sauce and doughy base – it’s likely that person’s waistline will expand. Similarly, Casa Imports Inc. got its start by focusing on pizza, which resulted in the large expansion of its business.

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