Sysco sizes up organics

by Eric Schroeder
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Sysco willing to seize the trend in organic foods.

NEW YORK – The organic food service market may not be massive in size, but it’s big enough to capture the attention of Sysco, the nation’s largest food service distributor. In a May 28 presentation at the Citi Global Consumer Conference in New York that centered mostly on the Houston-based company’s pending merger with US Foods, Chris Kreidler, CFO and executive vice president, took time to address an analyst’s question about the company’s presence and plans for organics.

“Is it too small? Nothing is too small for us to take advantage of and help our customers with,” Kreidler said of the organic food trend. “Does it move the needle overall? Not yet. We are a big company so it takes a lot to move the needle.”

Most important, Kreidler said, is that customers understand that whatever they want, Sysco may provide.

“If there’s a trend, whether it be organic, whether it be natural, whether it be global, we can provide it,” he said. “And we believe because of our size and scale and expertise in the industry, we can provide it in ways that others can’t.”

He said the company has a competitive advantage.

“If there is a demand for more local, we have the ability to source that local,” he explained. “We have the ability to provide traceability for that local and get that into the restaurant so they can put it on the table in front of their customers. We have that capability. We will do as much of it as our customers want. Sometimes customers say, I want local, and then they realize local does not mean inexpensive. In fact, usually the opposite. And they may change their mind. But the trend is there and we are willing to provide it.”

Kreidler stressed that Sysco’s business model is to do whatever its customers need to be competitive and successful.

“To me, it doesn’t matter whether it’s organic, natural or it’s national brand cornflakes,” he said. “Whatever it is, we will provide it. The more we can help them, frankly, the better. So we will participate in that trend, and I think we’ve got the capability to do that again better than others.”

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