As a member-owned business, grocery wholesaler Associated Food Stores operates as a cooperative. With no stockholders, the company is free to prioritize the needs of its customers. “I’m most proud about what we as a company do for the independent grocery store operator,” Vice President Bob Obray says. “Everything we do is for the benefit of our member-owners.”
For the past 75 years, Utah-based Associated Food Stores’ mission has been to strengthen and support its independent members. The wholesaler now services nearly 500 stores, including 42 corporate-owned locations that are part of Associated Retail Operations, a subsidiary company. Associated Food Stores’ independent members are found in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Arizona. The average store is 40,000 square feet, but Obray says its members range in size from as small as 5,000 square feet up to 80,000 square feet.
The company’s own stores are spread across five banners. With 19 locations, Fresh Market is Associated Food Stores’ largest chain. Associated Foods also operates Macey’s, a family-focused value format, Dick’s Market, Dan’s and Lin’s Fresh Markets. The latter four brands were acquired from former Associated Food Stores’ members. The company decided to keep the original store names because of recognition and reputation in their local markets.
However, Obray says maintaining the separate brands creates some redundancy in marketing and makes efficiency more difficult. “There is really not a lot of overlap when it comes to the different brands in different markets,” he says.

BountyCherry Capital Foods has been meeting consumer demand for the past nine years by bringing transparency and local food sourcing to a new level. Because the products it sources are its No. 1 priority, the company also spends a great deal of time building a strong food-centered community. “We are a traditional, broad-line distributor in that we handle anything that grows or is produced in the state of Michigan,” CEO Evan Smith adds. “What makes us unique is that we pick up directly from the farmer and only deliver within the state.”

If you enjoy king crab, snow crab or fish filet, your favorite seafood product might have come from fisheries in Alaska managed by Westward Seafood Inc.  

Founded in 1989, Westward Seafood built a processing plant in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, which took about two-and-a-half years to construct. It was able to process crab from the Bering Sea by 1991.

Westward Seafood’s primary product is pollock, a mildly flavored whitefish. It is used for a number of different functions, including fish filets; imitation crabmeat; surimi, a paste made from fish; or kamaboko, a process in which fish are pureed and formed into loaves and steamed. 

The beer industry has become more dynamic over the past 10 years with the emergence of craft beer. The trend brought a change to consumers’ buying habits and forced distributors such as The Best of Beers of Hickory, N.C., to start looking at business differently.

“Business was pretty much the same for about 50 to 60 years and then with the growth of craft beer – the No. 1 buzzword in the industry – things started changing,” President Randy Truitt says. “Consumers drive everything; they are the boss. We are very successful at partnering with high-quality, highly sought-after craft brewers to add to our portfolio to make us relevant.” 

Jim Hannigan has spent most of his life in the produce business. “I’ve been in the produce industry for 48 years,” says Hannigan, CEO of J&J Distributing. “There isn’t anything in the industry I haven’t done.”

Hannigan, 72, recalls unloading produce from railroad cars when he was a college student. He also spent time delivering and repacking various commodities, ripening bananas and selling produce direct from the farm to the retailer.

Decades later, Hannigan and his family are on the cutting-edge of the organic produce movement as they guide their company into a future that will realize significant changes when it comes to nutrition and healthy lifestyles. “We’re a family owned business that has a passion for both our customer’s success as well as our success,” he says.

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