Serving the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, Master Food Distributors has a long history in the region, starting as a butcher shop approximately 50 years ago. Incorporated 35 years ago as a food distributor, Master Food Distributors emphasizes the variety of local products it offers its customers, which include supermarkets, pizza and sandwich shops, bodegas and trattorias.
“We focus on the independents,” President Michael Stern emphasizes. “What separates us from the big broadliners is how we work with local or regional manufacturers. We call on the smaller independent end-users as opposed to the large national chains. We’re bringing the regional flavor to customers. What works in Ohio doesn’t always work in Philadelphia or in South Jersey. So we’re able to offer the breadth of product that people would be looking for and be familiar with.”
Master Food Distributors carries desserts from Pellman Foods, a local vendor that provides cakes, cheesecakes and pies among its offerings. “We’re doing very nice with them,” Stern says. “They’re good, regional people.” Another local brand Master Food Distributors carries is Spring Glen Fresh Foods, which prepares a variety of salads, soups, entrees and desserts.
“Hatfield Quality Meats or now Clemens Food Group is a local vendor that we’ve been dealing with since the beginning,” Stern continues. “Hatfield bacon in my market rules. It’s much harder to sell other brands. So I think these relationships with the local vendors help us. We’re bringing the regional products to our customers. At the end of the day, we’re a service industry – it’s not a product I’m trying to sell.”
Master Food Distributors offers dairy products, imported cheese, salads, seafood, condiments, frozen foods and non-food items such as napkins, utensils, cups and bags. “We started in retail grocery and are growing toward foodservice right now,” Stern says.
He attributes his company’s growth to its membership for the last three years in buying group Frosty Acres (F.A.B. Inc.). “It’s contributed a lot to our growth,” Stern says. “It’s absolutely opened up my eyes and given me a channel to talk to people in my industry that are not competitors.”
Stern cites a multitude of qualities that contribute to the success of Master Food Distributors. “The service, the consistency, the quality and freshness – our competitive pricing, the knowledge of the salespeople,” he lists. “We’re adding value to the customer. Everyone has different expectations, and we are trying to identify what the value is that we can bring to help them. We’re offering solutions for them and their issues. That’s what I aspire for us to do for our customers, not just taking an order, making a delivery and dropping some boxes off. Hopefully, that relationship is a lot more.”
Employees of Master Food Distributors pick stock from a fully slotted, 40,000-square-foot warehouse at the company’s headquarters in Boothwyn, Pa. Employees make deliveries with the company’s seven 26-foot trucks that have both a freezer and a refrigerated section. Master Food Distributors leases its trucks from a local vendor, and the trucks have a full maintenance service contract.
Master Food Distributors’ website offers its customers online ordering, current promotions, market condition information and links to preferred vendors. Stern plans to utilize social media to bring more customers to the company, and he hopes that by taking advantage of modern technology, Master Food Distributors can offer more and better services to its customers.
For the future, Stern sees consolidation in the food distribution industry as limiting choices of the end-users. “It will eliminate customer options and choices,” Stern asserts. “We’ll be able to reach people that just went to the big broadliners before. It’s going to create opportunity for us to go back in and offer options again. I think it will also create opportunities for employers and their recruiters.”