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KeHE initially will serve as a primary distribution partner for 80 Kum & Go stores, with plans to expand service to more locations.

KeHE gets bigger in convenience store channel

Specialty distributor inks agreement with Kum & Go chain

KeHE Distributors has landed a distribution partnership with Midwestern convenience retail chain Kum & Go L.C., boosting the wholesaler’s share in the c-store space.

Under the agreement, KeHE will serve as a primary partner for 80 Kum & Go locations, the Naperville, Ill.-based specialty grocery distributor said Tuesday. Plans call for KeHE to expand service to more Kum & Go stores as well as improve distribution, broaden product assortment and help the retailer drive growth in the Midwest market.  

“We are thrilled to be selected by Kum & Go as their primary distributor for specialty, natural and organic products,” Marc Rosenthal, executive director of business development at KeHE, said in a statement. “Kum & Go is an amazing company that has been serving the Midwest well, and we are proud to partner with them to broaden their product assortment and help them continue to challenge the perceived ‘norm’ of convenience store food.”  

Overall, Des Moines, Iowa-based Kum & Go has a network of more than 400 convenience stores across 11 Midwest and Upper Midwest states, including Iowa, Nebraska, Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming. The retailer has unveiled plans to open stores in Utah (Salt Lake City area) and Michigan (Grand Rapids area) in 2022 as well as enter Idaho with Boise-area stores in 2023.

“We are excited to be partnering with KeHE Distributors to bring new and better-for-you products to our customers,” commented Kristin Jarabek, vice president of category management at family-owned Kum & Go. “We’re proud to provide our customers options they wouldn’t expect to find in a convenience store without sacrificing the convenience factor. This supports our initiative to ‘democratize healthy’ within the convenience space.”

KeHE noted that the partnership with Kum & Go fuels its efforts to widen access to better-for-you products in the convenience retail channel. An employee-owned, B Corp-certified company, KeHE supplies natural, organic, fresh and specialty food, groceries and other products to more than 30,000 natural food stores, supermarket chains, independent grocery stores, online retailers, retail pharmacies, convenience stores, foodservice providers and specialty retailers across North America.

The deal, too, continues KeHE’s expansion of its distribution network and customer base. In early October, the company opened a 1 million-square-foot distribution center — its largest DC to date — in Dallas. The new facility brings enhanced technology to raise service levels to partners, including a 210,000-square-foot freezer with a climate-controlled ice cream room, robotics and automation to hone accuracy when selecting, and improved batch-pick to lower emissions and energy demand. That followed the August opening of a 124,000-square-foot expansion of its Aurora, Colo. DC, earmarked for new, independent grocery clients and featuring 33% more freezer space, 66% more cooler space and 43% more dry grocery space.

Also in August, KeHE also extended its KeHE CONNECT Direct digital fulfillment network to include its DC in Chino, Calif., making the service available to West Coast retailers. The Chino facility joins three fulfillment centers supporting the CONNECT Direct service. Launched in June, KeHE CONNECT Direct offers retail partners an expanded assortment options for dry, refrigerated and frozen items, including products not available in their home distribution center and items in smaller quantities.

And earlier this year, KeHE added grocery retail cooperative Allegiance Retail Services as a primary distribution customer and expanded distribution of natural and specialty products with Publix Super Markets. And in December, KeHE opened its 17th distribution center, a 500,000-square-foot facility in Goodyear, Ariz.

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