C&S Wholesale Grocers

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C&S Wholesale Grocers
IndustryGrocery wholesale and distribution
FoundedWorcester, Massachusetts (1918)
FounderIsrael Cohen and Abraham Siegel
Number of locations
over 50 distribution centers in 16 states
Key people
Revenue$30 billion (as of 2017)
Number of employees
about 17,000 (as of 2017)[1]
Footnotes / references

C&S Wholesale Grocers is an American wholesale distribution of food and grocery store items with its headquarters in Keene, New Hampshire, United States. C&S is the tenth-largest privately held company in the United States, as listed by Forbes. C&S owns the Piggly Wiggly grocery brand (which is independently franchised to store operators) as well as the Best Yet private label brand.[3] C&S is the largest wholesale grocery distributor in the United States, based on revenue.[4]

C&S provides more than 140,000 stock-keeping units (SKUs) food and nonfood items to 6,500 corporate customers, including produce, meat, dairy products, delicatessen products, fresh/frozen bakery items, health and beauty aids, candy, and tobacco. C&S has 17,000 associates in 16 states, and storage space of more than 15 million square feet.[2][5]

C&S customers include Giant-Carlisle, Giant-Landover, Stop & Shop, Safeway Inc., Winn-Dixie, Target Corporation, and independent store/supermarket owner/operators.[2]


Wholesale operations[edit]

C&S was founded by Israel Cohen and Abraham Siegel in 1918 in Worcester, Massachusetts. It began as a small grocery distribution center in a three-story building on Winter Street. In 1929 the original building flooded, prompting a move to a new, larger location on Hygeia Street. In the 1940s, as the popularity of supermarkets grew, C&S made several improvements to their distribution process including a warehouse "roller system", and staffing trucks with one employee who acts as driver and salesman, thus cutting delivery costs in half.[6]

C&S grew dramatically in 1958 after it began serving supermarket chain Big D in Worcester.[7]

In the 1970s, the founder's grandson, Rick Cohen, joined the company. C&S then built and moved into a 300,000-square-foot (28,000 m2) warehouse in Brattleboro, Vermont. With the move, it began serving several large supermarket chains, including A&P.[7]

In 1987, Rick Cohen had become president and CEO of C&S and was concerned if the company would be able to withstand the upcoming holiday season; would operations be able to meet the needs of all customers and at the same time maintain the high level of customer satisfaction that they were known for throughout New England. Some challenges that came along with acquiring stores, such as A&P, included higher operational costs, shrinking margins, customer relationship management, and quality control. In 1988, Rick Cohen met these challenges by implementing the concept of self-managed teams.[8]

Beginning in 2013, C&S entered into a partnership with BI-LO to provide warehousing, distribution, and procurement services for all 480 Winn-Dixie stores. As a result, C&S began to operate six existing Winn-Dixie distribution centers in the Southeast of the United States.[9] In September 2014, C&S entered into an asset purchase agreement with Associated Wholesalers Inc (AWI), thus allowing C&S to acquire nearly all of their assets.[10]

Some C&S warehouses use an automated storage and retrieval system for grocery dry goods made by Symbotic, LLC, also owned by Rick Cohen.[11]

Retail operations[edit]

Grand Union[edit]

In 2001, C&S moved into retailing as it acquired the Grand Union supermarket chain. It was Grand Union's largest unsecured creditor when Grand Union declared bankruptcy, making a stalking horse offer.[12] It sold the chain to Tops Markets in 2012.

Southern Family Markets[edit]

The Southern Family Markets banner was created in 2005 when C&S acquired 104 stores from BI-LO, which operated stores under the BI-LO, Bruno's Supermarkets, Food World, FoodMax and Food Fair brand names.[13] Eight of these locations in the Knoxville, Tennessee, market were sold to K-Va-T Food Stores before ever converting to the Southern Family name.[14] In addition, Southern Family acquired 7 stores from Winn-Dixie that same year.[15]

Under increasing competition, Southern Family Markets announced in August 2006 that they would either close or sell 30 stores in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi along with their complete North Carolina market of 17 stores. In 2007 and 2008, C&S began converting six stores in Georgia and ten in Alabama to the Piggly Wiggly banner.[16][17][18]

In April 2009, as part of the Bruno's Supermarkets bankruptcy proceedings, Southern Family agreed to purchase 31 Bruno's locations in a $45.8 million deal.[19] By October 2010, Southern Family Markets announced the closings of eleven of the stores acquired during the Bruno's bankruptcy.[20]

In July 2012, all 57 Southern Family owned locations in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Florida were sold to Belle Foods. C&S would continue as Belle Foods main distributor until Belle Foods was liquidated in September 2013 and purchased by Associated Wholesale Grocers.[21][22]

Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co.[edit]

In October 2014, C&S acquired the operations of Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co., which included branding, marketing, store support, accounting and IT services, for $9.3 million, while the 20 corporately owned Piggly Wiggly Carolina stores were to be sold to independent operators. As of August 2015, there are 2 corporately owned locations with 46 independently owned locations.[23][24]


C&S acquired Associated Wholesalers (AWI) in 2014. AWI owned the grocery chain Nell's, which had four locations at the time of the sale.[25] C&S sold three locations and continues to operate a store in Spry, Pennsylvania.[26][27][28]

Olean Wholesale Grocery[edit]

C&S announced its acquisition of Olean Wholesale Grocery, which had previously operated as a cooperative of its member grocers in upstate New York and Pennsylvania, in late 2018. The purchase is scheduled to close in early 2019.[29] Shortly after the purchase closed, it announced the closure of the OWG facility.[30]


  • January 2009: Lawsuits were filed in federal courts in Wisconsin and New Hampshire alleging that C&S and SuperValu engaged in collusion to allocate markets and reduce competition. The charges stemmed from a 2003 asset swap in which SuperValu swapped distribution centers in the Northeast with C&S's centers in the Midwest with suits claiming that each had indicated it would not compete in the other's territory. The agreement raised red flags when C&S closed its newly acquired distribution centers shortly after the deal.[31][32][33]
  • December 2010: A&P filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing in court papers that, among other causes, A&P made an "unfavorable" arrangement with C&S where A&P was required to get 70 percent of its inventory from C&S.[34]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b "C&S Wholesale Grocers on the Forbes America's Largest Private Companies".
  2. ^ a b c "About". C&S Wholesale Grocers. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  3. ^ "Full Line Wholesale Procurment". C&S Wholesale Grocers. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  4. ^ "Investor Relations". C&S Wholesale Grocers. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  5. ^ "Private Label Brands". C&S Wholesale Grocers. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  6. ^ "C&S Through the Years". C&S Wholesale Grocers. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Coffey, Brendan; Siraj, Zohair. "Hidden Billionaire Cohen Hauls Fortune in Unmarked Trucks". Bloomberg. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  8. ^ C&S wholesale grocers: Self-managed teams [1][permanent dead link] Dutta, H. 2012.
  9. ^ Springer, Jon (May 14, 2013). "C and S to Take Over Winn-Dixie Distribution". Supermarket News. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  10. ^ "Associated Wholesalers Enters Into Asset Purchase Agreement With C&S Wholesale Grocers". PRNewswire. Associated Wholesalers Inc. September 9, 2014. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  11. ^ Robbie Whelan (September 20, 2016). "Fully Autonomous Robots: The Warehouse Workers of the Near Future". The Wall Street Journal.
  12. ^ http://www.paulweiss.com/files/Publication/d1436bab-f7cd-4ecf-a1d7-26764ac96052/Presentation/PublicationAttachment/896831da-763f-4a4e-a70d-7599105b5056/837336.pdf Archived October 24, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "C&S Boosts Retail In BI-LO Buy". SupermarketNews.com. May 9, 2005. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  14. ^ "Food City To Acquire 8 BI-LO Locations". SupermarketNews.com. February 27, 2006. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  15. ^ "Winn-Dixie Receives Bids For 79 Stores". Supermarket News. July 11, 2005. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  16. ^ More Southern Family Stores to Switch to Piggly Wiggly Archived July 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Supermarket News, dated September 27, 2007
  17. ^ Southern Family stores to become Piggly Wiggly, DecaturDaily.com, dated January 10, 2008
  18. ^ Market to open Wednesday Archived July 25, 2011, at Archive.today, TimesDaily.com, dated January 13, 2008
  19. ^ Bruno's sells 56 stores in $46M deal Archived October 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, bizjournals.com, dated April 30, 2009
  20. ^ Southern Family to close Pelham, Trussville Food World stores, al.com, dated October 5, 2010
  21. ^ Belle Foods Completes Southern Family Markets Acquisition Archived July 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Progressive Grocer, dated July 2, 2012
  22. ^ "Bankruptcy judge approves sale of 43 Belle Foods stores to AWG". al.com. September 27, 2013. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  23. ^ "Store Locator". Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. Archived from the original on August 2, 2015. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  24. ^ "C&S to acquire Piggly Wiggly Carolina". SupermarketNews.com. October 8, 2014. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  25. ^ Nell’s Shurfine Market sale approved by bankruptcy court
  26. ^ Weis Completes Market Purchase From C&S
  27. ^ Giant Food Stores Acquires Nell’s Shurfine Market Store from C&S Wholesale
  28. ^ Weis to buy Nell's Family Market in East Berlin
  29. ^ C&S Wholesale Grocers to acquire Olean Wholesale Grocery Cooperative, Inc., a premier full-service food distributor
  30. ^ [2]
  31. ^ Stevens, Caleb (January 22, 2009). "Supervalu faces collusion lawsuit".
  32. ^ "Grocery Wholesalers Face Anticompetitive Lawsuit | Modern Distribution Management". Mdm.com. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
  33. ^ Sanders, Bob (July 3, 2009). "Grocery score: suit alleges C&S in antitrust conspiracy". Entrepreneur.com. Retrieved December 13, 2010.[dead link]
  34. ^ Kary, Tiffany. "A&P, Century-Old U.S. Grocery Store Owner, Files for Bankruptcy". Bloomberg. Retrieved December 13, 2010.

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