C&S Wholesale Grocers acquires Albertsons Cos. frozen food contract

C&S Wholesale Grocers has closed a deal to purchase Albertsons Cos.’ Mid-Atlantic frozen services contract from Burris Logistics.

Terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed. Keene, N.H.-based C&S said yesterday that it had entered into a definitive agreement to buy the Albertsons’ frozens contract from Burris in early spring and then closed the deal on Sunday.

“C&S’s legacy is innovating ahead of market trends, and this agreement is the next step in our transformation journey. It will further strengthen our service with Albertsons in the frozen product, as well as support a new relationship with Albertsons’ Mid-Atlantic division,” C&S Chairman Rick Cohen said in a statement. “We have always had tremendous respect for the strong customer relationships that Burris has developed over the years. We are committed to continuing a high standard of customer service.”

Albertsons’ Mid-Atlantic division, formed last summer, includes approximately 300 stores in its Safeway and Acme Markets chains. Late last year, Acme acquired 27 Kings Food Markets and Balducci’s Food Lover’s Markets in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Maryland and Virginia.

“Rick Cohen has assembled an incredible business as an industry leader in wholesale grocery supply in the United States. Both Albertsons and our team members will benefit from C&S acquiring our Albertsons service contract,” commented Donnie Burris, CEO of Milford, Del.-based Burris Logistics, which operates a network of temperature-controlled warehousing and distribution centers, mainly on the East Coast. “This will allow us to accelerate our growth as an end-to-end provider of high-quality, customized supply chain solutions and e-commerce fulfillment offerings through Burris Logistics, Honor Foods and Trinity Logistics.”

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Albertsons’ Mid-Atlantic business unit includes about 300 stores from the Acme Markets and Safeway chains.

C&S expands its frozens business at a time when the category is booming, fueled by the continued eat-at-home trend triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, frozen food sales surged 21% in dollars and 13.3% in units year over year, with nearly all segments experiencing double-digit sales increases, according to data from the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) and FMI-The Food Industry Association. That strong growth has continued into the middle of 2021, with frozen food dollar sales up 9.2% for the 52 weeks through late May, compared with a 5.8% increase overall food and beverage sales, AFFI reported. And in June, frozen food dollar sales climbed 21.9%.

“We look forward to further strengthening our service in the important growing frozen segment and supporting the growth and continued success of our retail partner Albertsons,” stated C&S CEO Bob Palmer. “C&S is dedicated to remaining the industry leader by delivering exceptional value and service to our great retail partners.”

The Albertsons frozens contract pickup, too, marks another recent business win for C&S. Last week, C&S unveiled plans to acquire food wholesaler Piggly Wiggly Midwest. With the deal, C&S would acquire 11 Piggly Wiggly Midwest corporate-run stores and supply 14 Butera Market supermarkets in the Chicagoland region plus 84 Piggly Wiggly franchisees in Wisconsin. Piggly Wiggly Midwest’s corporate offices and two of its distribution centers are located in Sheboygan, and a third distribution center is in Milwaukee.

A day after announcing the Piggly Wiggly Midwest acquisition, C&S said it has hired former Stop & Shop president Mark McGowan as senior vice president of retail, a newly created position in which the grocery industry veteran will drive expansion of C&S’ retail business.

Overall, Keene, N.H.-based C&S Wholesale Grocers supplies more than 7,700 independent supermarkets, chain stores, military bases and institutions and offers over 137,000 products.

In late 2019, C&S agreed to sell three warehouses — two in York, Pa., and one in Chester, N.Y. — to Ahold Delhaize USA, which had announced a plan to shift to self-distribution. Ahold Delhaize also acquired the lease for a C&S facility in Bethlehem, Pa. C&S said that, in continuing a 30-year relationship with Ahold Delhaize USA companies, it will serve as the third-party labor provider at the York and Chester warehouses.

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