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.

In 2006, Madhu Natarajan founded Food Service Warehouse (FSW) with one idea in mind: to make it easier for foodservice providers to purchase supplies and equipment by making equipment available to purchase online. “Beginning with just 12 employees and faced with an industry steeped in brick-and-mortar storefronts, [Natarajan] paved the path to create a thriving and disruptive presence in the foodservice equipment and supplies market,” the company says. 

With four locations in the United States and more than 450 team members, the company today is a leading, game-changing player in the equipment sales market. “We’re focused on providing our customers with the best experience and the best product selection in our industry,” the company says. “At FSW, we’re not seeking to push the status quo; we’re working each day to constantly reinvent it.”

The wholesale distribution of fresh produce hasn’t changed very much since the early days of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York Inc., and that suits the company just fine. Vice President Matthew D’Arrigo says the multigenerational family owned and operated business has benefited from concentrating on the same areas of excellence that made it an industry leader in the mid-1920s. Namely, the company continues to focus on providing its customers with the highest-quality fruits and vegetables in the timeliest fashion. Although the technology may have changed somewhat, the keys to success for D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York have remained constant through four generations. 

The story of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York begins with the story of brothers Andrea and Stefano D’Arrigo, who emigrated from Sicily to the United States in 1904 and 1911, respectively. The two brothers obtained engineering degrees and served during World War I before settling into the produce business. It was in 1923 that the brothers established their first business in Boston, bringing fresh produce from around the country to the Boston market. While on a trip to buy wine grapes in California in 1925, Stefano D’Arrigo noted the abundance of land perfect for growing produce near what is now San Jose, Calif. With a packet of broccoli seeds from Sicily, the brothers established a growing operation on the West Coast. 

For many years, Oklahoma’s beer market was dominated by 3.2 beers, or beers that contained no more than 3.2 percent alcohol by weight. Over the last several years, however, the emergence of the craft beer market and imported brands has helped to drive the share growth that “full-strength” beers have in the Oklahoma market. One of the leaders in helping to drive this growth has been Oklahoma City-based Capital Distributing LLC and their affiliates Oklahoma Beer Imports and 6 Point Beverages, and CEO Gordon Green says this growth is only the beginning. 

Capital Distributing has been serving much of Oklahoma since 2001. In 2005, the company entered into a relationship with 6 Point Beverages, a Class B wholesaler also based in Oklahoma, and this partnership added more than 200 brands of full-strength beer and about 900 SKUs to Capital Distributing’s portfolio. 

Founded in 1966, Sodexo is widely recognized as one of the world’s largest foodservice and facilities management businesses. However, the French multinational company has made huge strides in recent years to be known as much more than that, billing itself as a company that provides “integrated quality of life services to its clients.” Certainly, the term “quality of life” covers a wide spectrum; it can mean so many different things. What does Sodexo mean by it? In a nutshell, the company’s aim is to take care of everything that surrounds a client’s business so that the client can focus on its main service.

With more than 400,000 employees across 33,000 sites, Sodexo serves more than 75 million customers worldwide. It is the only company to integrate a complete offering of innovative services, based on more than 100 professions. As a global leader in its industry, it operates offices in more than 80 countries, including its Colombian branch, which was established 20 years ago. The Bogota-based office continues to thrive, particularly in the facilities management sector. 

Michael “Tony” Russo recalls a time when, as a child helping out in his father’s produce distribution business, he had collected 20 cases of asparagus from a supplier and brought them back to his family’s warehouse only to discover that one of the company’s drivers had already collected the same amount of the vegetable. After learning that his family was charged for only the first 20 cases collected, he worried about the consequences of holding onto the overage. 

“I thought that the supplier would believe we had taken 20 cases of asparagus from them,” he says. “I couldn’t sleep that night, and worried all night that I had done something that would tarnish my family’s name.”

Early the following morning, Russo returned the 20 cases to the supplier, who had not yet noted their absence and were surprised to see the young boy. Russo says he understood as a youngster the importance of honesty. Through his home and church, as well as the family business, he learned there was an expectation and a commitment to ethical and responsible conduct in all aspects of business.

Palmetto Foodservice President Peter Landskroener acknowledges the major challenges his company faces as an exporter in the food industry. “Right now, we’re eating a large dose of humble pie every day because the U.S. dollar is very strong, and when you’re selling expensive American beef to Europe and your dollar is 30 percent stronger against the Euro than it was 6 months ago, that makes a big difference,” he says. “Along with the strong dollar the fact is that the main commodity we sell worldwide is U.S. beef, and beef prices are at a record high levels and there’s no indication they’re going to come down any time soon.”

Those two main factors have led many of its foodservice distributors to reduce the amount of beef they’re purchasing from Palmetto. Poultry products exported by the Atlanta-based company are also challenged as a result of the avian influenza virus, which has led to many countries worldwide to close their doors to poultry imports altogether. The virus closely follows previous international concerns over Mad Cow disease, some of which still linger more than 12 years after the affliction first manifested. “It’s been tough, and we’re working a lot harder and maybe sleeping a little less at night, but that’s part of the business – we soldier on,” he adds. 

Forty years ago, The Nutrition Group began as a relatively small company that provided meals for summer camps, senior congregate dining programs and a few school districts in Pennsylvania. Today, the $123 million company provides on-site meal services to approximately 180 school districts, charter schools and private schools in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan and is branching out to other states.

The company has a presence in New Jersey and Florida, and plans to expand in those areas. It’s a competitive market”, says COO Jerry Moore. The education marketplace makes up about 80 percent of the business for The Nutrition Group, a regional foodservice company that frequently bids against national firms for school contracts, Moore says.

“With our team approach we’re more successful,” says Pam Harney, director of business development. “We focus on building partnerships with potential clients rather than impose a corporate presence. We listen to their needs and develop a plan.”

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