Wholesalers & Distributors

KeHE Distributors names Deb Conklin president and CEO

Conklin will assume the post from Brandon Barnholt on April 1. Barnholt has led the natural-and-organic foods wholesaler for 15 years.
KeHE Distributors
Deb Conklin will become president and CEO of KeHE Distributors in April. / Photo courtesy: KeHE Distributors

Deb Conklin will become president and CEO of KeHE Distributors on April 1, the company announced Thursday.

Conklin replaces Brandon Barnholt, who has held the posts for 15 years. During that time, Naperville, Illinois-based KeHE grew from a Midwest distributor to the “largest pure-play distributor of specialty, natural, organic and fresh products in North America,” the company said.

Barnholt oversaw the acquisition of Tree of Life, Nature’s Best and Monterrey Provisions during his tenure.

Conklin is president and CEO of Reddy Ice, the largest manufacturer and distributor of packaged ice in the country. She has also served on KeHE’s board.

Her appointment is part of a “carefully planned succession process,” KeHE said in a statement.

“Deb is a perfect cultural fit and is uniquely qualified with a solid combination of strong distribution and commercial experience in the retail food sector,” Barnholt said. “She is a seasoned, talented executive with deep experience in the capital markets and a keen strategic mind. Beyond that, she is an enthusiastic, humble and focused leader with a bias for action.”

With her appointment, Barnholt will become KeHE’s executive chairman.

KeHe distributes to more than 30,000 natural food stores, chain and independent grocery stores, as well as e-commerce retailers and other specialty retailers. The company is owned by its more than 6,800 employees and is a Certified B Corporation.

“The strength of KeHE’s customer portfolio and diverse supplier universe is very exciting for the future,” Conklin said in a statement. “KeHE is an important distribution and supply chain partner throughout the retail food sector, and I look forward to helping all parties grow and succeed.”

Last fall, KeHE opened its largest distribution center in Dallas, a 1 million-square-foot facility that employs 500 people.





More from our partners