INDEPENDENT BROKER GROUP SEEKS INDUSTRY VOICE

PLOVER, Wis. -- The newly formed trade group for independent food brokers will provide services for a segment of the industry lost in the "stampede" to national brokerages, one of its founding members told SN."This is about giving the independent broker more of a voice in the industry," said Chip O'Hare, who addressed the new Independent Food Brokers of America (IFBA) at its inaugural meeting in Chicago

PLOVER, Wis. -- The newly formed trade group for independent food brokers will provide services for a segment of the industry lost in the "stampede" to national brokerages, one of its founding members told SN.

"This is about giving the independent broker more of a voice in the industry," said Chip O'Hare, who addressed the new Independent Food Brokers of America (IFBA) at its inaugural meeting in Chicago last month. The meeting, held prior to the Food Marketing Institute show, drew 60 brokers and 65 manufacturers, said O'Hare, president and chief executive officer of Johnson-O'Hare, a regional broker based in Billerica, Mass.

About 35 companies have officially joined the new group, said O'Hare, who added that he expects between 75 and 100 companies to join. O'Hare will serve as chairman of the IFBA. Don Cox, of Co-Sales, Phoenix, will be vice chairman, O'Hare said.

The IFBA was formed as a division of the National Association for Retail Marketing Services (NARMS), also based here. According to O'Hare, the group will help independent brokers regain a voice in an industry that underwent rapid consolidation over recent years and will be focused on business development, not public policy.

The formation of national food brokerages, which followed consolidation among retailers and manufacturers in the late 1990s, caused turmoil among remaining independents in the food brokerage industry, he said.

"When nationalization takes place in any industry, the national companies tend to leave fertile niches in [their] wake," he said.

IFBA does not require its members leave Grocery Manufacturers of America, the trade group representing product manufacturers. That group merged with the former Association of Sales & Marketing Companies, the broker trade group, in 2001. "Eight or 10 of our members will stay in the GMA," O'Hare said. "It just became difficult for the independent broker to get the kind of business development they need in GMA."

C. Manly Molpus, president and CEO of GMA, Washington, said he didn't view the IFBA as a threat.

"[Independent brokers] recognized that they needed some special attention and services that we couldn't provide," Molpus said. "So we wish them well. It's not any kind of threat to us or our goals or objectives."