By Lorrie Baumann
When Rob Wilson drove up to his office in West Caldwell, New Jersey, on June 8, he took a few minutes to look up at the rooftop of Gourmet Foods International’s Northeast Distribution Center and smiled. Then he hustled inside to prepare for the ceremony in which the ribbon would be cut and he’d flip the switch on a brand new solar array.
The decision to install solar came from the McCall family, which owns GFI. “As a family company, we have always considered future generations in our decisions. This is no different,” says Brewster McCall, adding “Now more than ever, it is critical for national companies to take a strong moral lead on environmental issues. We are looking to expand clean energy technologies in our distribution centers across the country.”
Once the decision was made to install the new solar panels, it took almost a year to make it happen, starting with a permitting process and the engineering to ensure that the building’s roof could support the array and even including a check to ensure that the rooftop array wouldn’t interfere with the flight path of aircraft using the small Essex County airport that’s just about a quarter of a mile down the road. “We actually went to the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] to be sure it was okay to put these panels in,” Wilson said. “We paid attention to every detail, and rightly so.”
The solar project will provide benefits for GFI customers as well. By diversifying the company’s energy portfolio, the national specialty food supplier will reduce electricity costs a minimum of 30 percent, allowing potential cost savings to be passed on to its customers.
More than 500 panels across the distribution center’s entire roof will power all of the company’s operations at its 50,000 square-foot facility with clean, renewable energy. “This is a very big celebration for our company,” Wilson said as he was making final preparations for the big day. “We’re so excited and proud of this. We’re having the ribbon-cutting, followed by our entire team celebrating over lunch.”
The moment that the switch is flipped to pull the building’s energy from the solar array will mark the success of what is just the company’s most recent accomplishment in support of GFI’s total commitment. “We take social responsibility as a core value of our company. This decision to use solar energy is part of that core value,” Wilson said. “The solar project exemplifies the GFI commitment to sustainability, whether it is solar energy, recycling, use of biodiesel trucks or supporting local, eco-friendly artisans that create the great products we are privileged to provide…. It really is a great event for our company and a statement for our industry.”
The solar array will, in addition to generating energy, produce no greenhouse gas emissions. Over the expected 20-year life span of the array, it will eliminate CO2 emissions that are the equivalent of planting 151,497 trees or reducing driving by more than 13 million car miles. It’ll displace the carbon dioxide emissions for the annual electricity use of 737 homes, and it’ll prevent the burning of more than 6 million pounds of coal. “This is something we are very proud of as well,” Wilson said. “It’s clean energy and totally inexhaustible. It’s nonpolluting and doesn’t emit greenhouse gases.”
GFI is also proud to be supporting jobs for the American workers who built the solar panels. “Our panels are made in the United States. It was a very important part of the decision process. That’s another of our core values – taking care of our team members by supporting the domestic economy as well as the environment,” Wilson said. “It’s really about giving back. It’s about taking care of everyone and everything through a sincere commitment to what is just and fitting, and that is the GFI culture”.
Kings Food Markets and Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market selected KeHE Distributors as a specialty distributor for natural & organic, specialty, and private label items. The agreement is effective immediately. The transition is scheduled to be complete this summer.
“Across the KeHE community, we are energized to put our compelling service, pricing and promotions model to work for Kings and Balducci’s,” said Brandon Barnholt, president and CEO, KeHE. “We are honored to be a part of their distribution network and to help achieve their future growth plans.”
An upscale gourmet food market, Kings is recognized as a pioneer within the specialty food industry. Kings began in 1936 with the humble purpose of finding the freshest available produce, and today Kings provides a unique shopping experience paired with the highest quality foods. Its founders identified the best local farmers and established long-lasting relationships that have grown. Today, it has 25 stores in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut that sell local, national and international specialty food products. Specialty food retailer Balducci’s was started in Brooklyn in 1916 by “Pop” Balducci and has grown to become a gourmet powerhouse, specializing in hand-selected meats and cheeses, restaurant-quality prepared foods, and fresh baked goods with 10 store locations in Maryland, Virginia, New York and Connecticut. Both companies were acquired by KB Holding, Inc. in 2016.
“By choosing KeHE, we have selected a specialty supplier that shares our collective passion for food, which continues to be the enduring foundation of our success,” said Judith Spires, Chairman and CEO, Kings and Balducci’s. “This partnership will continue to grow our business while enhancing our ability to deliver an expertly curated selection of offerings to the communities we serve.”
C.A. Fortune, based in Chicago, is capitalizing on the growing consciousness of today’s better-for-you consumer food products market. After four years of strategic and planned growth, C.A. Fortune, a privately-held natural, specialty and bakery/deli sales and marketing agency, announces the company has joined forces with Portland, Oregon, based Bridge Sales & Marketing, completing the agency’s goal of providing coast to coast coverage for its client brands and retail customers.
The transaction with Bridge Sales & Marketing expands C.A. Fortune’s coverage to include Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. “We feel this is the right time and the right fit for us,” said Doug Brynelson, who founded Bridge Sales & Marketing along with his wife Marcia. “Working as part of the C.A. Fortune team will not only bring a myriad of additional resources, but allow us the opportunity to focus on what we do best, being in the stores, and developing relationships with buyers at both headquarter and store level.”
“The Bridge team has been able to construct an incredible, reputable business across the Pacific Northwest. From the strong culture in which they operate, to the level of service they provide their client and customer partners, it was truly a perfect match for both firms,” said Tyler Lowell, Managing Partner of C.A. Fortune. “We could not be happier with bringing the Bridge group into our organization.”
Marking its eighth transaction in just under four years, C.A. Fortune has vastly expanded beyond its initial upper-Midwest roots in 2013, to today employing more than 300 associates, and with seven offices across the U.S. – solely focused on the natural/organic, specialty/conventional and bakery/deli space.