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2013 Power 50: Robert E. Hill, No. 14 in Suppliers/Sales Agency

Despite the challenging economy, Acosta Sales & Marketing, Jacksonville, Fla., has grown its food brokerage business over the past few years by offering new services ranging from shopper insights to foodservice to experiential marketing. It has all been shepherded by Robert Hill, Acosta’s president and chief executive officer since 2009.

Most notable has been an extraordinary series of acquisitions in the foodservice sector that began with the acquisition of Venture Sales Group in March 2012 and Quality Sales & Marketing the following month. During the remainder of 2012, Acosta purchased eight more foodservice sales and marketing agencies throughout the U.S. This year, Acosta continued its buying spree in March with five more foodservice companies coming onboard, followed by four more in May. Acosta’s foodservice division now spans the majority of the U.S., offering sales and marketing services to more than half a million foodservice operators, including supermarkets.

“By quickly expanding our footprint through the acquisition of several key regional foodservice agencies, we are helping manufacturers as well as foodservice operators and distributors,” said Hill, in an email communication. Acosta has “not closed the door” on future foodservice acquisitions, he added.

Foodservice was not the only focus of Acosta’s acquisitions this year. In January, the company bought Firebird Foods, Phoenix, a meat and deli sales agency, extending the company’s fresh food services both at Kroger and in the West region. In addition, Acosta recently launched a 7,000-square-foot innovation center enabling its clients to showcase bakery and deli products to retailers.


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And in March Acosta entered the e-commerce channel by picking up Global Sales. “The long-term outlook for the food and beverage e-commerce sector is still evolving and the industry is evaluating the opportunities and challenges that grocery retailers face when it comes to e-commerce,” Hill said.

Acosta also impacts the industry through its research and consulting unit, AMG Strategic Advisors, which over the past several months has released studies on everything from trade promotion effectiveness to its biannual “The Why? Behind the Buy” report. Late last year, AMG partnered with Univision Communications to create research on Hispanic shopper trends.

On the in-store side of the business, AMG’s FrontLine Marketing unit last fall announced plans to expand its end-aisle fixture program for new products, dubbed the New Product Center, to a network of more than 4,000 supermarkets nationwide.

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Acosta’s in-store prowess was noted by Jim Kelly, CEO, Market6, Deerfield, Ill., a provider of retail data and analytics to CPG firms. “Acosta was a key partner with Market6 in our early pilot,” he said.

Acosta has also distinguished itself in recent years with its ”cause-marketing” fund-raising campaigns done with retailers and suppliers. Through the “Believe in Heroes” consumer promotion campaign for the Wounded Warrior Project, Acosta has raised nearly $10 million since 2010, including $5.7 million last year. Its nationwide “Aisles of Smiles” program has helped raise nearly $80 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

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