Natural and organic foods distributor KeHE Distributors this week showed off its newest distribution center in North East, Md., a 550,000-square-foot facility that the company said was designed to better service the unique needs of independent retailers in the Northeast states.
The facility in Cecil County is located midway between Washington D.C. and New York, bringing KeHE’s network to 16 national distribution centers that provide natural, organic and specialty products to natural food stores, grocery stores and other specialty retailers throughout North America.
“We are extremely proud to expand our operations throughout the northeast region to enhance our supply chain services to independent retailers in that portion of the country,” Amy Kirtland, executive vice president of independent sales for KeHE, said in a release. “We believe that independent retailers are the heart of their communities and we want to help them thrive. This expansion will improve delivery times, increase speed-to-shelf of new items and power overall operational excellence.”
The new warehouse follows a significant customer win announced a year ago when KeHE scored a primary supply agreement with Mom’s Organic Market, the growing natural/organic retailer based in Rockville, Md.
“Spending the last year working with the KeHE team has been fantastic,” said Eric Yetta, chief operations officer at Mom’s, said in a statement. “There was nothing easy about the decision to switch our main distributor here, at Moms, from UNFI to KeHE, but during the entire process, the KeHE team was so positive and collaborative. It turned out to be a great experience and a huge win for our store teams and our customers.”
More than 90 employees are currently working in the distribution center, which features 82,000 square-feet of dedicated freezer space, 54,000 square-feet of refrigerated cooler space, and a 19,000 square-foot refrigerated dock to keep perishable items cool and fresh during the loading process.
Mark Knauss, Distribution Center Manager at Kimberton Whole Foods—a Kimberton, Pa.-based independent retailer serviced by the new facility and not associated with the Whole Foods markets chain—added,, “Distribution is theoretically easy, moving items from point A to Point B. It is all the chaos that happens in between that you need a partner willing to stand with you in the thick of things, working hard to resolve issues and push on. KeHE’s [Maryland facility] is proving to be that partner.”
As part of KeHE’s ongoing sustainability effort, the new distribution center utilizes energy-efficient LED lighting. KeHE said it has also collaborated with some of its larger customers to implement a plastic tote exchange, which will lead to a significant reduction of waste.
KeHE Distributors, based in Naperville, Ill., is a “pure play” distributor of natural and organic, specialty, and fresh products to more than 30,000 natural food stores, chain and independent grocery stores, ecommerce retailers and other specialty product retailers throughout North America. KeHE is an employee-owned, B Corporation, with over 5,000 employees.