Heritage Matters at Dot Foods

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Dot Foods has mastered the art of redistribution, a unique segment of the foodservice industry that its founders, Robert and Dorothy Tracy, pioneered when they launched the company in 1960. With eight kids to feed, a house to pay for and little more than a station wagon and a dream with which to build a business, they started delivering powdered milk and other food products to dairies in the Midwest.

Fast forward to today: The Mount Sterling, Ill.-based redistributor was No. 65 on Forbes’ 2016 list of America’s Largest Private Companies with annual sales hitting $6.6 billion. Dot Foods operates 10 distribution centers across the U.S. and two in Canada. It carries nearly 120,000 products from 835 manufacturers and operates Dot Transportation, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary. Dot delivers products to distributors in all 50 states and more than 25 countries.

As family business success stories go, it’s one for the ages. Now helmed by second-generation leaders John (executive chairman), Joe (CEO) and Dick (president) Tracy, the company is doubling in size every five years. Over the years, the Tracy children have helped to shepherd Dot Foods through massive organizational change and growth, but every step they’ve taken forward has been guided by the past.

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If the Tracys are undisputed masters of redistribution, they’re also adept at leveraging and honoring Dot Foods’ heritage to shape its brand story and its future. The ethics and values on which “RT” and Dorothy Tracy built the company guide and inspire every major decision its current leaders make. The promise the couple made in 1960 to provide every customer with individualized service continues to frame the company’s go-to-market strategy and its corporate culture. And the innovation that they brought to the industry – introducing the very concept of redistribution to help customers and vendors alike grow more profitably – drives Dot’s current leaders to continue its legacy of outside-the-box thinking. The company lives and breathes its motto: “Trusted values. Innovative solutions. Shared growth.”

Visit “dotfoods.com” to get a taste of how past, present and future come together to create a compelling, heritage-rich brand story. Whether you’re a customer, employee, vendor or other stakeholder, you’ll quickly get the message that heritage really matters at Dot Foods. (Photos courtesy of Dot Foods)


iFD People: Caroline Perkins, iFD Co-Founder


In line with our goal of highlighting heritage, people and progress through our corporate history writing services, we’ve designed iFD People as a series of quick-read, Q&A-style blog posts periodically introducing foodservice distribution leaders, sales stars and others who have made or are making history in the industry. We’re bypassing the usual work-related questions, however. Instead, we’re offering insights into what makes iFD People tick. Who are their role models? What books are they reading? How would they describe themselves in one word?

To start the ball rolling and as a preview of what’s to come, here’s a sample Q&A with iFD co-founder Caroline Perkins. Stay tuned for more in the weeks ahead.

iFD People: Caroline Perkins, co-founder and chronicler, inside foodservice distribution
What are you most proud of in your career?
CP: Being able to tell the stories of so many wonderful companies and people in our industry. Foodservice distribution is one of the few remaining industries that is primarily made up of family-owned businesses. It has been my privilege to learn about and share their stories.

When you think of icons in the industry, who comes to mind first?
CP: Bob Civin, former editor of ID magazine; John Martin of Martin Bros. Distributing; Mike Roach, former president of Ben E. Keith Foods; John Woodhouse, former chairman and CEO of Sysco Corp.; the Tracy family of Dot Foods; and the Gordon family of Gordon Food Service

Who are your role models?
John Martin, Martin Bros. Distributing; Carla Cooper, former CEO of Daymon Worldwide and former president of the Women’s Foodservice Forum; Alice in Wonderland

What books or other reading matter are on your bedside table right now?
“The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations and Its Prospects” by Lewis Mumford; “Four Quartets” by T.S. Eliot; autobiography of Christian Dior; “The Obsidian Chamber” by Preston & Child; “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach; and poems by Emily Dickinson

If you could time travel to another point in history, when would it be?
The 1830s and 40s in Concord and Amherst, Mass., when there was such a fabulous group of brilliant writers and thinkers, including Emerson, Thoreau, Channing, Dickinson, the Alcotts and Hawthorne, to mention a few.

If you could come back as a particular person or thing, who/what would that be?
The person who finds a cure for cystic fibrosis.

What three people, living or dead, would you like to have dinner with?
Marcel Proust, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot

How would you describe yourself in one word?

What dramatic industry changes do you predict we’ll see in within the next 10 years?
There will be a significant increase in mergers and acquisitions. Successful distribution companies will be solutions providers for their customers in terms of their having to keep up with changes in technology, food safety, food origin and creative ways for operators to deliver food to consumers. In other words, taking consultative selling to the max and into the future.