Several retailers in the northeast have banded together to enter a primary supply agreement with KeHE Distributors through their Independent Natural Food Retailers Association (INFRA) membership.
The pact is the first regional agreement of its kind for INFRA, but it establishes a model the association would like to pursue on a regional basis with KeHE and other distributors or with vendors that could provide similar opportunities and member benefits.
For retailers, the agreement offers price breaks, leverages the voice of independents in the market and maintains commitment to sustainability by reducing shipping miles, according to INFRA. For the association, regional partnerships such as this give independents voice in unique local issues, according to Marketing Director Erica Shulte.
“It allows us to retain a level of fluidity and flexibility, takes into consideration the increasing costs and environmental impact of fuel usage, and begins to build a business model that hopes to better support local food economies,” INFRA CEO Corinne Shindelar said via press release. “I continue to be amazed at those INFRA members who chose their values and are willing to think outside the box to accomplish their goals.”
The association’s northeast region includes 38 members in states from Virginia north to Maine. Not all have signed the partnership agreement. INFRA has 100 members nationwide.
KeHE has similar group partnerships in other channels, CEO Brandon Barnholt said, and is excited to partner with INFRA for growth of both the association and independent natural retailers.
The distributor focuses on flexible products and programs to support independent natural food retailers and potential group partners, Barnholt said.