When Stern Produce began in 1917, Arizona’s population stood somewhere between 200,000 to 330,000 people. Back then, Stern Produce was a local Phoenix farm. Over the years, Arizona grew slowly yet steadily until it took a sharp increase in the 1980s. In the same way, Stern Produce has also seen organic and stimulated growth, as the once local farm has transitioned into a statewide wholesale distributor of produce, dairy and meat products.

Southeastern Food Supplies might enjoy a leading market position as Florida’s premier distributor of Asian cuisine, but the Miami-based company still maintains the same level of personalized customer service that enabled it to grow. “Our internal motto is that we’re big enough to serve our customers’ needs, but we’re small enough to care,” President and General Manager Lawrence Yu says.

To stay in business for more than 75 years, Service Paper Co. has managed to meet the demands of foodservice and janitorial distribution clients looking to keep their products fresh. According to General Sales Manager Jim Vahrenwald, those products are starting to turn green.

The Army used to run commercials that said: “We do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day.” The same could be said of Pioneer Wholesale Meat Co., which works hard to process orders for its Chicago customers at the start of each day. “I always say we do 80 percent of our business between 6 and 8 in the morning,” owner Bill Milligan says.

According to Dorothy Strackbein, to survive the food industry, especially on the meat side of things, a company must have a solid financial plan. “I’m a certified financial planner and have a financial planning practice, and in the meat business, you need to have cash flow,” Strackbein says.

Over the course of 77 years as a beer and wine distributor, the folks at O&W Inc. have seen numerous changes in the beverage industry. With each flip of the calendar, the company has worked to adapt. From the perils of prohibition to today’s sluggish economy, O&W has remained agile. As a result, the company has become one of the most successful beverage distributors in the Midwest. As the beverage industry continues to evolve, and the economy continues to quiver, O&W stays focused. Already, a number of changes are taking place at the company. 

Throughout the past 70 years, O.K. Foods has remained a family owned operation that is heavily involved in its Arkansas and Oklahoma communities. But in that time, the company has evolved from a livestock and poultry feed producer into one of the world’s largest fully integrated poultry producers. Today, the company employs a staff of roughly 4,000.

Back in 1980, three men – Lazar Jovanovic, James Hall and Jeremy Lumianski – borrowed money from a bank and their relatives to start a meat supply company called Polarpak Foods. The goal of the business was to produce various portions of meat products – raw, solid, chopped and formed, breaded and unbreaded – in large supply to restaurants and grocery stores. It began by selling a high volume of sliced beef liver. Polarpak would eventually be changed to Nordic Foods, which is now a leader in the food processing industry.

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