44) Gary Chartrand
Chairman and CEO, Acosta Sales & Marketing Co.
WHY: Led Acosta's expansion and diversification strategy.
WHAT'S NEXT: Adding other services to Acosta's platform.
Gary Chartrand is considered by many to be the broker of food brokers.
As chairman and chief executive officer of Acosta Sales & Marketing Co., Jacksonville, Fla., he is known as a pioneer who saw the potential of representing national clients on a coast-to-coast basis, breaking the regional mentality that up until the early 1990s characterized the sales and marketing business.
"Gary had a national vision for the sales agency community in the early 1990s and initiated the first step outside the Southeast with the Acosta-PMI merger in July 1998," said Acosta's Bob McCarthy, president-grocery channel. Within 15 months, the firm had acquired Kelley-Clarke in the West, MAI in the Northeast and Soules in the Southwest to form a national sales agency network.
The rest of the brokerage community sat up and took notice.
As the months progressed, Acosta was the first to roll up the southeastern United States. It took somebody with initiative to convince entrepreneurs who had built up their own brokerage businesses to join Acosta.
"If you look back on it now, it looks like it was a very logical situation. But at the time, it was difficult to sway someone who was very successful. When you want to buy the best guy, that becomes a harder sell," said one industry observer.
"Our strategy was to acquire companies that had a No. 1 position," Chartrand told SN. "Later, we went north of the border in 2002 and bought four companies in Canada. We went from a regional company that had rock-solid values and positioned -- if you will -- to be a leader in our industry, to be a leader on a national basis, and we're quite proud of that."
When he joined the regional brokerage L.T. Acosta in 1983, he saw that consumer packaged goods manufacturers were national in scope, but brokers were not. He figured consolidating sales agencies would make sense, but a tough sell given the provincial attitudes that prevailed at the time.
Acosta now manages $36 billion in annual CPG sales.
Chartrand's interests extend beyond the immediate sales-and-marketing functions of his company to issues that affect its clients.
"I have worked with Gary very closely through the years and watched him come of age as one of the leading architects of Acosta's expansion strategy and as CEO managing most of their major mergers and the subsequent integration of them," said Mark Baum, Grocery Manufacturers of America executive vice president.