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 a national wholesale grocery supply company in the United States, based in Keene, New Hampshire. In 2021 it was the eighth-largest privately held company in the United States, as listed by Forbes.[3] C&S owns the Piggly Wiggly grocery brand, which is independently franchised to store operators, the Grand Union (supermarket) brand, as well as several private label brands, including Best Yet.[4][5]

As of 2021, C&S serviced over 7,700 independent supermarkets, chain stores, military bases and institutions with over 137,000 different products, including produce, meat, dairy products, delicatessen products, fresh/frozen bakery items, health and beauty aids, candy, and tobacco.[2][3][6]

Services range from wholesale procurement, category management, pricing, marketing and advertising, merchandising, business and accounting, as well as store design and engineering. C&S customers include Giant-Carlisle, Giant-Landover, Safeway Inc., Southeastern Grocers, Target Corporation, and independent store/supermarket owner/operators.[2][4][7]


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.[8]

C&S grew dramatically in 1958 after it began serving supermarket chain Big D in Worcester.[9]

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.[9]

In 1987, Rick Cohen became president and CEO of C&S and was concerned if the company would be able to withstand the upcoming holiday season; deliberating if operations would 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.[10]

In 2013, C&S entered into a partnership with BI-LO to provide warehousing, distribution, and procurement services for Winn-Dixie stores. As a result, C&S began to operate six existing Winn-Dixie distribution centers in the Southeast of the United States.[11] 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.[12] In the same year, C&S completed purchase of Grocers Supply in Houston.[13] In 2015, the company acquired FreshKO Produce Services, Inc., in California.[14]

Some C&S warehouses use an automated storage and retrieval system for grocery dry goods made by Symbotic, LLC, an American robotics warehouse automation company also owned by Rick Cohen.[15]

Retail operations[edit]

Grand Union[edit]

In 2001, C&S moved into retail 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.[16] It sold the chain to Tops Markets in 2012. In 2021, C&S agreed to purchase 12 Tops stores in New York and Vermont following their merger with Price Chopper due to FTC regulations, with the stores to reopen under the new name in January–February 2022.[17]

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.[18] 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.[19]

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.[20][21]

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.[22][23]


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.[24] C&S sold three locations and continues to operate a store in Spry, Pennsylvania.[25][26][27]

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. Shortly after the purchase closed, C&S announced the closure of the facility.[28]


In 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. In 2018, a federal jury cleared C&S of the charges.[29][30]

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. ^ a b "C&S Wholesale paves the way for Grand Union redux". Supermarket News. November 9, 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Southeastern Grocers". Supply Chain World. March 1, 2022.
  5. ^ "Full Line Wholesale Procurment". C&S Wholesale Grocers. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  6. ^ "Private Label Brands". C&S Wholesale Grocers. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  7. ^ "Economy, Competition Still Challenging Wholesale Grocers". Food Trade News. December 6, 2010.
  8. ^ "C&S Through the Years". C&S Wholesale Grocers. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  9. ^ a b Coffey, Brendan; Siraj, Zohair. "Hidden Billionaire Cohen Hauls Fortune in Unmarked Trucks". Bloomberg. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  10. ^ C&S wholesale grocers: Self-managed teams [1][permanent dead link] Dutta, H. 2012.
  11. ^ Springer, Jon (May 14, 2013). "C and S to Take Over Winn-Dixie Distribution". Supermarket News. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  12. ^ "Associated Wholesalers Enters Into Asset Purchase Agreement With C&S Wholesale Grocers". PRNewswire. Associated Wholesalers Inc. September 9, 2014. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  13. ^ "C&S to acquire Grocers Supply". Supermarket News. November 3, 2014.
  14. ^ "C&S Acquiring FreshKO Produce Services". Progressive Grocer. December 16, 2015.
  15. ^ Robbie Whelan (September 20, 2016). "Fully Autonomous Robots: The Warehouse Workers of the Near Future". The Wall Street Journal.
  16. ^ 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
  17. ^ "Price Chopper/Market 32 and Tops Market complete merger transaction". November 25, 2021.
  18. ^ "C&S Boosts Retail In BI-LO Buy". SupermarketNews.com. May 9, 2005. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  19. ^ "Food City To Acquire 8 BI-LO Locations". SupermarketNews.com. February 27, 2006. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  20. ^ Belle Foods Completes Southern Family Markets Acquisition Archived July 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Progressive Grocer, dated July 2, 2012
  21. ^ "Bankruptcy judge approves sale of 43 Belle Foods stores to AWG". al.com. September 27, 2013. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  22. ^ "Store Locator". Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. Archived from the original on August 2, 2015. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  23. ^ "C&S to acquire Piggly Wiggly Carolina". SupermarketNews.com. October 8, 2014. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  24. ^ Nell’s Shurfine Market sale approved by bankruptcy court
  25. ^ Weis Completes Market Purchase From C&S
  26. ^ Giant Food Stores Acquires Nell’s Shurfine Market Store from C&S Wholesale
  27. ^ Weis to buy Nell's Family Market in East Berlin
  28. ^ "C&S planning to shutter former Olean Wholesale site | News | oleantimesherald.com".
  29. ^ Stevens, Caleb (January 22, 2009). "Supervalu faces collusion lawsuit".
  30. ^ "Jury Rejects Antitrust Claims Against Grocery Wholesaler". Law360. April 23, 2018.

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