KeHE Distributors announced Feb. 20 that its organic evolution now includes moving its natural sales and marketing team to Boulder, Colo., a city increasingly recognized as the heart of the natural products industry.
“Given the natural [and] organic focus of our product portfolio, we want our company expertise in this critical area located geographically where the greatest concentration of thought leaders in this industry are located; and Boulder is clearly the place to be,” said Greg Leonard, executive vice president of independent sales at KeHE.
KeHE acquired the natural products distributor Tree of Life in 2010 and has retained the Tree of Life name for its natural channel business. The company reports that its Tree of Life natural products division has grown by double digits each of the last several years.
KeHE has also seen the natural and specialty food industries going “on intersecting paths” since the 1980s, Leonard said. This is being driven by the fact that more of the specialty foods products carried by KeHE now meet natural product standards or are certified organic.
“Recent analysis of the product assortment we distribute, which numbers about 60,000 items, shows that almost 70 percent of those items meet traditional natural product standards,” Leonard said.
For KeHE a Boulder location means a stronger connection to new natural and organic product companies and natural industry leaders, as well as a front row seat to emerging trends that will shape the future of the natural products industry.
“One of KeHE’s strategic goals is to provide ‘a great customer experience,’” Leonard said. “The path to achieving that goal requires that we have the right product at the right time. If we leverage the talent of our team in Boulder and the resources available in the Boulder community properly, we will clearly enhance our customer experience.”
Smart Balance, which now operates under the Boulder Brands banner, announced last fall that it would adopt its new company name and relocate its headquarters to Boulder for similar reasons.
KeHE Distributors’ new Boulder office will open in the spring and, by the end of the year, house eight to 10 sales development, account management, category management, assortment analysis, and event and publication management staff members. Rickard Werner, KeHE’s vice president of natural sales, will lead the office.
“Tree of Life is deeply committed to the natural products industry, and the creation of a headquarters located in Boulder is the next logical step in our process of developing a world class natural products industry team,” KeHE President and CEO Brandon Barnholt said via press release.
Naturally Boulder, a 500-member natural industry trade group, welcomes the “important” national distributor, according to Vice President Sonja Tuitele. Establishing an office in Boulder makes sense because KeHE represents and supports leading brands, many of which hail from the area, said Tuitele, who is the vice president of communications for Aurora Organic Dairy.
KeHE Distributors, based in Romeoville, Ill., is an employee-owned distributor of natural and organic, specialty and gourmet, international and multicultural, and fresh foods founded by Art Kehe in 1952. It ships to more than 35,000 retail outlets from its 12 warehouses, and employs 3,500.