Protein Bar Distribution and Getting into Retail Stores

At YouBar, we have extensive experience working with the leading global food distribution companies, including KeHE and UNFI. 

These relationships are essential to our clients’ ability to sell their products everywhere from Whole Foods to Costco to Target (both in their brick-and-mortar stores and online).

Food distributors play a key role in the food industry, functioning as our clients’ intermediary between themselves and the retail locations they utilize to sell their products.  Because of food distributors’ typically deep relationships across the industry, partnering with the right food distributors can often “make-or-break” whether a potential buyer (ie; Whole Foods) will stock a brand’s product line. As a result, many of our clients see our ability to support their distributor relationships as core to the success of their brands.

While we work with dozens of distributors, here is a brief summary of some of our favorites:

UNFI: One of the United States’ largest and most well-connected distributors, UNFI has a whopping 60 distribution centers, and are located close to most retail locations in the U.S. and Canada. They have 1,000 trucks that deliver 2 million cases every day. UNFI also offers lots of useful auxiliary services, including:

  • Merchandising
  • Category Management
  • Marketing
  • E-Commerce
  • Delivery Tracking

KeHE: Distributes organic and specialty food products to grocery, natural food stores and other specialty product retailers.

A few other big players: Sysco Corporation, US Foods Holding, Performance Food Group.

Amazon: While not technically a food distributor (at least not yet!), Amazon is in the process of disrupting the food distribution model much in the same way that it has disrupted everything from books to toys. The reason for this is simple. At their core, food distribution companies distribute products -- and no company is more nimble than Amazon at distributing products. Indeed, at YouBar, most of our clients utilize Amazon for at least some of their direct-to-consumer sales distribution.

Food Brokerages: Our clients also often hire a food brokerage companies to represent them in certain geographical regions. Brokers help food brands to market their products through the food service distribution system. This includes:

  • Getting items stocked in stores (usually in specific regions).
  • Getting items carried by connected food distributors.
  • Negotiating sales.