C&S Wholesale Grocers is at the bottom of the food chain -- and likes it that way. The company is the second-largest wholesale grocery distributor in the US (after SUPERVALU), supplying goods to some 5,000 independent and major supermarkets (including A&P and Kroger), chain stores, and wholesale clubs. C&S Wholesale, which serves about a dozen states (from Vermont to Hawaii), distributes more than 95,000 food and nonfood items. Its ES3 logistics unit provides warehousing and supply-chain management services. Israel Cohen started the company with Abraham Siegel in 1918.
While C&S's operations are concentrated in the Northeast, the wholesaler also has warehouse operations in the Southeast (Alabama and South Carolina) and western US, including California and Hawaii. Its ES3 logistics unit has facilities in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.
Sales and Marketing
C&S supplies products to a number of leading grocery chains including A&P, Ahold USA, Bi-Lo Holding, Demoulas Market Basket, Kroger, Marsh Supermarkets, Save Mart, Target, and Top Friendly Markets.
The grocery wholesaler rang up $25.9 billion in sales in fiscal 2014 (ended September). Based on sales, C&S ranks as the 10th-largest privately held company in the US (as ranked by Forbes magazine).
C&S has abandoned retail to focus on its core wholesale supply business. To that end, C&S acquired the wholesale distribution and supply business of Houston-based Grocers Supply Co. The purchase expanded C&S's distribution footprint to the Southwest, where GSC supplied more than 900 independent grocery stores, including Hispanic-themed Fiesta Mart.
C&S Wholesale is a giant in an industry known for moving high volumes of products and having narrow profit margins. Adding to that, price competition has heated up in recent years as smaller regional distributors have fought to stay competitive with industry leaders.
C&S Wholesale has taken its leading position by offering logistics services to retail chains and food manufacturers (Unilever), in addition to distribution. This diversification strategy not only offers a lucrative stream of revenue, but it has also helped to protect the company from bankruptcies in the retail grocery industry.