The Role of Food Wholesale Distributors in the Supply Chain

Gracie Tidwell
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    Have you ever wondered how food gets from the manufacturer to the grocery store shelf? Maybe you run a restaurant and are trying to figure out how to purchase your inventory. You could be wondering how to start a wholesale distribution business of your own. No matter who you are, the food supply chain affects you every single day.

    Wholesale distribution is essential to get food on consumers’ plates. The food supply chain has many moving parts, and requires many different players. The food and beverage industry couldn’t run without food wholesale distributors and other food distribution businesses

    Each part of the food supply chain plays a different, but equally important, role. Without each part working together, there would be many consequences. Efficient food supply chains help avoid things like shipping delays.

    Food Wholesale Distributors: What Do They Do?

    Food wholesale distributors work with food brands to get their products in stores, restaurants, and more. 

    Food wholesale distributors are an essential part of the food supply chain. They connect manufacturers with customers to sell their food products. It’s important for food wholesale distributors to make sure that food meets quality standards and arrives on time and in full (see OTIF meaning). 

    The food wholesale distributor purchases bulk food, and then stores the product in their warehouses. Then, they sell the food items to a variety of customers. Some typical customers of wholesale food include restaurants, grocery stores, catering companies, and food retailers. 

    There are many logistic considerations for food wholesalers to keep in mind. Timely shipping and handling, warehousing and storage, and food quality standards are all important to consider. 

    How do food wholesale distributors find customers? Wholesale marketing is a major aspect of wholesale food distribution. Wholesale distributors often market their brands to local retailers. They negotiate prices and shelf location in order to sell their products. 

    A benefit of using food wholesale distributors is that they advertise and find customers for the manufacturer. This allows the manufacturer to focus on creating the product rather than trying to sell it. Food wholesale distributors typically have access to a wide range of purchasers. 

    They work across large areas and with a variety of customers, from grocery stores to hospital cafeterias. They work with retailers as well as with direct customers. 

    Key Takeaway: Food wholesale distributors are a crucial part of the food supply chain. They bridge the gap between manufacturers and retailers. 
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    Food Supply Chain 

    Let’s dive into the different parts of the food supply chain, and how food wholesale distributors play a part.

    The food supply chain is the process food goes through, from raw materials inventory to finished products on the consumer’s plate. There are many players involved in turning food into an end product.

    Food undergoes five stages during the supply chain: production, storage, packaging and processing, distribution, and consumption. 

    Food wholesale distributors get food products one step closer to the consumption stage. They take food products from wholesalers, and sell them to DTC food sellers. 

    The food supply chain is necessary to get food to consumers. It’s important for the supply chain to be efficient and quick. Issues with food supply chain management can have negative effects on suppliers, distributors, retailers, and end consumers. 

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    Difference Between Food Wholesalers and Food Wholesale Distributors    

    One of the main differences between wholesalers and distributors is contracts. Food distributors form a strong and exclusive relationship with food manufacturers. They agree not to sell brands that are in direct competition with the manufacturers they work with. Distributors would be in violation of their contracts if they stocked a competing brand. Whether they’re selling gourmet popcorn or wholesale meat and seafood, food wholesale distributors can only have one brand at a time for each product.

    Food distributors typically serve a localized area and deal in a wide variety of products. They are able to form solid relationships with manufacturers and customers alike. Food wholesale distributors do a lot of promotional and marketing work to sell their manufacturer’s products.

    Food wholesalers are similar, but have a slightly different role in the food supply chain. 

    Food wholesalers are not obligated to stock one specific brand without competitors. They can offer as many brands as they like. 

    Wholesalers don’t perform the same promotional activities as food distributors. They focus mainly on purchasing bulk amounts of food products and selling them to food retailers. 

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    Frequently Asked Questions About Food Wholesale Distributors

    By now, hopefully you understand what role food wholesale distributors play in the food supply chain. The food industry needs food wholesale distributors to keep things running smoothly. At first, it may seem confusing to understand the different players in the food industry. A solid understanding of each component of the supply chain can help you understand what goes into getting food onto shelves. 

    Still confused about food wholesale distributors? Read some frequently asked questions to help you understand this topic. 

    What’s the difference between food wholesalers and food distributors?

    Food distributors do promotions and have contracts with one specific brand for each product; wholesalers can stock multiple brands and don’t do marketing for their brands. Both wholesalers and distributors purchase food products from manufacturers and sell to retailers. 

    However, each approaches this in a slightly different way. Food wholesale distributors can’t stock competing brands. Wholesalers can stock as many competing brands as they would like. 

    Another difference is the marketing that each type of business does. 

    Food wholesale distributors make great efforts to promote and market the brands they stock. They reach out to retailers and sell their products.

    Food wholesalers don’t put much effort into marketing their brands. They rely on the low price point of selling bulk products to generate sales. 

    How do I choose a food wholesale distributor?

    There are a few ways to choose a wholesale distributor, including seeing who your competitors use and doing a broad search of distributors. 

    Whether you’re a restaurant business owner or a purchasing specialist, picking a good distributor should be a top priority. 

    There are many factors to consider when selecting a distributor for your business. Look at location, product variety, and pricing. You should also consider their customer service and delivery speed. 

    You can also research the type of food wholesale distributor that your competitors use. This can give you a good idea of the average prices and contract terms in your area. 

    How do I buy food for my restaurant?

    Restaurants purchase food from food wholesalers and wholesale distributors. Restaurants typically purchase food in bulk in order to obtain the best prices. It’s important to order the correct amount of food in order to keep your restaurant running smoothly and avoid dead stock. Accurate demand planning can also help you to know how much and what kinds of food to buy. 

    Restaurant inventory management is important to prioritize. Purchasing softwares and order management softwares like BlueCart can help streamline your food ordering.

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