Retail sales of organic and natural food and beverages in the US, is growing strongly, reaching $35.9 billion in 2014, an 11 per cent rise on the previous year (OTA survey).

While organic foodservice is currently not a large market, it is also growing with more foodservice distributors sizing up the market to meet customer demand. More national foodservice operators are joining industry leader United Natural Foods (UNFI) to supply organic meats, dairy, produce and a wide range of foods, beverages and wines to hotels, restaurants, caterers and retail foodservice operators.

At the core of UNFI’s distribution operation are six main units: UNFI, UNFI Canada, Trudeau Distributing Company, Tony’s Fine Foods, Albert’s Organics and Select Nutrition (and Honest Green e-commerce). The company operates 33 distribution centers that serve the US, Canada, the Caribbean, Latin America, Bermuda, South Africa, Asia and Australia.

United Natural Foods, Inc carries and distributes more than 80,000 products to more than 40,000 customer locations throughout the United States and Canada. The Company serves a wide variety of retail formats including conventional supermarket chains, natural product superstores, independent retail operators and the food service channel.

In June, UNFI reported that net sales for the nine months ended May 2, 2015 were US$6.12 billion, a 21.7% increase over the comparable prior fiscal year period. Fiscal 2015 net sales included approximately $661.1 million from the company’s acquisition of Tony’s Fine Food.

Steven Spinner, president and CEO said: “Demand for organic, gourmet and ethnic products continues to increase, and we have seen sales growth accelerate modestly in the first few weeks of our fourth quarter.

“In combination with our Albert’s Organics business, UNFI is well-positioned to capitalize on the consumers’ demands for fresh products. Additionally, UNFI’s investment in refrigerated infrastructure will serve as a catalyst towards increased growth and market share as the platform moves across the country.”

Other Wholesalers

Among the major restaurant, catering and foodservice wholesalers that may provide opportunities for organic producers and suppliers are The Chefs’ Warehouse, Reinhart Food Services, US Foods, Sysco Corporation and Food Services of America.

The Chefs’ Warehouse is a specialty food distributor that began sourcing products for high-end chefs over 30 years ago and carries and distributes more than 31,800 products to more than 22,600 customer locations throughout the United States and Canada.

The Chefs’ Warehouse, Inc. said it focuses on serving the specific needs of chefs who own and/or operate some of the nation’s leading menu-driven independent restaurants, fine dining establishments, country clubs, hotels, caterers, culinary schools, bakeries, patisseries, chocolatiers, cruise lines, casinos and specialty food stores.

Founded in 1972, Reinhart Foodservice, L.L.C. said it is the 5th largest foodservice distributor in the US and one of the most progressive and efficient. The company provides fresh produce, proteins, ingredients, supplies and equipment to customers across the U.S. from 30 distribution centers Reinhart serves every segment of the food industry, from independent and chain restaurants to schools and healthcare facilities, and is committed to the highest levels of customer service, including providing its customers with menu planning assistance and nutrition services support.

Sysco Corporation said that is the global leader in selling, marketing and distributing food products to restaurants, healthcare and educational facilities, lodging establishments and other customers who prepare meals away from home. Its family of products also includes equipment and supplies for the foodservice and hospitality industries. The company operates 194 distribution facilities serving approximately 425,000 customers. For Fiscal Year 2014 ended June 28, 2014, the company generated sales of more than $46 billion.

In May, Chris Kreidler, CFO and executive vice president of Sysco, addressed the company’s plans for organics and said of the organic food trend: “Nothing is too small for us to take advantage of and help our customers with. If there’s a trend, whether it be organic, whether it be natural, whether it be global, we can provide it.”

Food Services of America is part of Services Group of America (SGA), comprised of businesses providing a broad array of foodservice solutions to a wide spectrum of customers. A privately-held, family-owned broadline foodservice distributor, it serves customers throughout the mid-west, west and Alaska from 10 regional distribution centers.

FSA customers include independent and chain restaurants, schools, health care facilities, hotels, cruise lines and government foodservice operations – anywhere people dine away from home.

US Foods said that it is one of America’s leading distributors, serving independent and multi-unit restaurants, healthcare and hospitality entities, government and educational institutions. The company offers more than 350,000 products, including high-quality, exclusive brands that include a premium line of specialty ingredients sourced from around the world. The company proudly employs approximately 25,000 people in more than 60 locations nationwide.

“US Foods is committed to increasing the number of environmentally preferable products available to our customers. We’re making it happen by forming new partnerships to offer a growing list of sustainable products,” it said.