Wholesale Food Distributors: How to Find One In 5 Steps

Joanna Okedara
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    The wholesale food and beverage industry is one of the most critical industries in the world. Wholesale food distributors play an indispensable role in food programs and the food and agricultural supply chain. Food wholesalers make it possible for businesses in the food production and restaurant industry to get wholesale restaurant supplies and quality products.

    There are numerous challenges facing the food supply chain and distribution of food globally, this year, and beyond. From warehouse management issues to bulk shipping of fresh food overseas, you need to understand how distribution works in the food industry, and you need efficient business systems to combat these challenges.

    Key Takeaway - To run a successful business, food distributor companies must be able to deliver timely and reliably. While you can go straight to the manufacturer to buy wholesale food and ingredients, it is more costly and most manufacturers may require a minimum order quantity or MOQ, which is way above your carrying capacity.

    Your best bet to getting fresh restaurant supplies and food items wholesale is using wholesale food distributors. Using local wholesale distributors will also cut the long distance shipping. Finding reliable food distributors is challenging if you don’t know where to look. 

    In this blog post, we review five tips on how to find a food wholesale distributor. However, before that, let’s do a recap of the food distribution definition.


    What Is Food Distribution? Food Distribution Definition

    Food distribution encompasses the various processes involved in moving wholesale foods from the producer and manufacturer to consumer-facing businesses. These businesses include restaurants, bars, local grocery stores, retail stores, independent retailers, retail food markets, supermarkets, chain stores, dollar stores, foodservice stores, and eCommerce food sites.

    Typically, the food distribution system goes beyond the food wholesale distributor. Food distribution involves large-scale food manufacturers, farmers, food service businesses, local suppliers, retailers, and consumers.

    However, making wholesale food available to consumers is the sole responsibility of food wholesale distributors. Wholesale food distributors bear most of the inventory carrying costs and the cost of storing wholesale foods in warehouses, bigger distribution centers, big box stores, and food distribution centers.

    A food wholesaler may decide to store wholesale foods in a large fulfillment warehouse or a food distribution center. The type of warehouse you use depends on the size of your food wholesale distributorship business and which warehouse management system is compatible with your existing software and warehouse management process flow.

    Learn the best processes involved in managing a warehouse. Download our free Warehouse Management eBook now.

    So, what are the benefits of a wholesale food distributor? Let’s find out.


    3 Benefits of a Wholesale Food Distributor

    Besides bridging the gap between food producers and consumers, wholesale food distributors offer food service companies and businesses in the food and beverage industry loads of benefits. Here are three benefits of a wholesale distributor:

    1. Wholesale food distributors offer wholesale prices for goods and help you reduce the inventory carrying costs associated with keeping lots of manufacturing inventory. In addition, you don’t have to spend as much money renting or buying a big warehouse when you partner with a food distributor as opposed to buying directly from manufacturers.
    2. Wholesale food distributors usually have a large network of retailers and other businesses they sell products to. Quick inventory clearance results in ordering new stock from manufacturers. When you use a food wholesale distributor, you can be assured of getting fresh food.
    3. Wholesale food distributors use a wholesale distribution management system like BlueCart to streamline the ordering process. Food distributors also ensure that countless food safety measures are put in place until you get your supplies delivered.

    How to Find Wholesale Food Distributors In 5 Steps

    Restaurant businesses, food wholesalers, and food service distributors must understand that the food distribution business process flow is unlike another niche market or industry. The food B2B wholesale marketplace has to function like a well-oiled machine.

    Wholesale food distributors deliver wholesale produce using high-performance wholesale distribution software and restaurant technologies. For food distribution to work, every channel in the food distribution industry needs to be aligned.

    As a business owner in the food industry, finding the right wholesale food companies will save you a lot of stress. For instance, imagine a restaurant lacking the menu ingredients to produce orders due to an unreliable supplier or distributors of food products.

    Want to get familiar with wholesale restaurant products? Download our free Wholesale Produce eBook, Wholesale Meat and Seafood eBook, and Wholesale Coffee Distribution eBook to learn more.

    There are different types of wholesale food services and food distributors' processes. However, the best wholesale food suppliers are not difficult to find, if you know where to look.

    Here are five places to find the best food distributors that will help you meet the challenging demands of the food service industry:

    1. An Online Search

    The first place to look for wholesale food distributors is the internet. With millions of users on the internet, it is easy to optimize your search to find wholesale food distributors.

    To get started with this, be specific in your search terms. For instance, rather than searching for non-specific keywords like wholesale distributors, try wholesale dairy suppliers, wholesale alcohol distributors, and wholesale coffee suppliers instead.

    You should read online customer reviews and take your time to conduct a background check of the wholesaler. Request samples of the products to check for quality and confirmation that the business is real.

    If you are running a restaurant or food retail business, it may be easier to work with a local food wholesale distributor. This will make it possible to get fresh food products as well.

    Like our wholesale content? You may want our wholesale purchase agreement template.
    1. Your Local Wholesale Directory

    Using a wholesale directory is another way to find wholesale food distributors. You can use either online or offline wholesale directories to discover new wholesale distributors for your food supplies.

    Most online wholesale directories list different wholesale businesses according to categories. You can find food distributors by selecting the category of food you need. It is important to review the website for authenticity.

    The logic is the same for offline directories. Offline directories are usually organization- or association-based, so it’s easier to narrow your search to the wholesale supplies you need.

    1. Trade Fairs and Industry Events

    Trade fairs are usually places where wholesalers and retailers within the same industry meet and network. You can take advantage of trade fairs to meet new food vendors and wholesalers. Most wholesale food distributors at trade fairs will have samples of their products as evidence of their authenticity.  

    1. Farmers’ Markets

    Similar to trade fairs, farmers' markets connect you to local suppliers and producers of food. It is easier to operate a farm-to-table concept when you partner with farmers.

    You'll also be able to meet up with local fish farmers for a regular supply of wholesale seafood. Make it an action to utilize industry-best supplier relationship management strategies to build your relationships with farmers and food vendors.

    1. Word of Mouth

    You can also find food wholesale distributors the old-fashioned way: word of mouth. Leveraging the experience of other businesses in your industry will make it easier for you to find reliable suppliers.

    Word of mouth will help you connect with local food distributors. You can directly communicate and ask questions about the operations of the wholesale food distributor from local businesses.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Wholesale Food Distributors

    Wholesale food distributors are key players in the food system supply chain. They make it possible for businesses in the food industry to receive food supplies for their daily operations. Let’s answer some questions about wholesale food distributors.


    What Is a Food Distribution Center?

    A food distribution center is a type of warehouse or food storage facility designed to store different types of wholesale foods before they’re shipped through a freight company to foodservice stores, grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants, bars, or local stores. Food distribution centers have a warehouse layout design that is best suited for the storage of food products.

    What are the Types of Food Distribution?

    There are four main types of food distribution. They include the following:

    • Cash-and-carry distributors
    • Specialty distributors
    • Redistributors
    • Broadline distributors

    How Do I Start a Wholesale Food Distribution Business?

    To start a wholesale food distribution business, follow these steps below:

    What are the Top Food Distributors in the US?

    There are different food distributors in the United States. However, here are the top wholesale food distributors in North America and the entire US.

    1. Sysco
    2. Performance Foodservice
    3. McLane Foodservice
    4. DOT Transportation
    5. BlueCart

    Finders, Keepers

    Having a vendor management system will streamline the way you manage your wholesale food vendors and suppliers. It is important to use reliable suppliers and wholesalers that can ensure compliance with food safety regulations.

    It’s always possible that your suppliers suffer some glitches and have an increased lead time. Make sure you prepare a backup plan and failsafe actions for this kind of situation.

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