Natural Food/Organic Wholesale Distributors?

Joined Jan 1, 2001
OK Friends-Really need some advice here.

We own a small Ice Pop Shop and also sell organic and fair trade coffee, tea, chocolate along with soups and baked goods. Our main focus is on handmade, artisan style quick food that's made from primarily organic ingredients.

All the research says that local foods, small artisan food crafters and natural and organic food service operation is the fastest growing trend. Great!

So why can't the natural and organic food distributors get on board with this and assist in this growing market segment?

We're currently ordering from UNFI (United Natural Foods International) and while it's easy to get decent pricing on organic shelf stable goods (flours, canned & dry beans, canned tomatoes, broths, dry fruit, nuts etc.) it's impossible to get decent pricing from them on cheeses, buttermilk, organic dairy and food service size packaging of stuff like IQF fruit, organic chocolate (3 oz bars the largest).

They seem absolutely stuck in the Natural Food Store mindset and tell me that I'd get better pricing if I bought palettes of stuff. Excuse me? What restaurant or coffee shop has the storage space to handle a palette of frozen raspberries? It seems they are stuck in the Whole Foods mindset, but even Whole Foods has food service operations which need food service size packaging. It's non-existent in many food segments.

Does anyone have an alternative to suggest? We're also checking out Tree of LIfe, but I have the feeling we'll face similar problems with them. 

If you know of a regional distributor that services the Northeast, we'd love to know of one. When in NC we loved ordering from Cornucopia Foods out of Mebane. Their reps would reach out to us and help us find the raw materials we needed to make superlative products. I just can't find their northern equivalent. 

Would love some help.
Joined Feb 13, 2010
This is a problem with all large vendors. Its due to market demands. The bulk of what they carry is the product that is most in demand with a decent price. The problem with organic dairy, meats, produce, etc... is that it is not produced in the quantity needed to drive down market prices. This is why most restauranteurs/chefs went local in the first place. Your best bet is to cut out that middle man. It takes a lot of up front time investment, but it can mean the difference between serving organic product at a reasonable price and pricing yourself out of business.

Check for local dairy coops, independent farms, and most importantly: farmer's markets. Farmer's markets I've found are the best. Not because of the crap they sell there, but because you can find the right people all in one place (assuming that is, that your local farmer's markets still have actual farmers at them). I have my go to guy here in Denver that I met at a Farmer's Market and if he doesn't grow it he knows someone who does.
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