iFD People: David Ellingson, Bargreen Ellington

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David Ellingson is president of Bargreen Ellingson, a foodservice supply and restaurant design company founded in 1960 in Tacoma, Wash. Representing the third Ellingson generation to manage the company (the co-founding Bargreen family was bought out in the late 1990s), David joined the family firm in 2006 and was named president in January 2012, transitioning leadership from his father, Paul, and uncle, Rick, who grew the company into a premier regional E&S dealership. In 2016, Bargreen Ellingson sales exceeded $255 million and the company’s territory covered 10 western states, including Hawaii and Alaska, as well as portions of western Canada, from 22 locations. David’s excited about the growth, and says his biggest focus as Bargreen Ellingson’s leader is nurturing a strong company culture around an internal program called On Board. It focuses on nine critical founding values, which are intended to drive decision making from the boardroom to the warehouse. They are: Hire Smart; Respect; Teamwork; Use Good Judgement; Learn, Learn, Learn; Communication; Pursue Change; Ownership; and Hoopla (i.e., have fun!).

iFD What are you most proud of in your career?
The successes and growth of Bargreen Ellingson employees
Who are your role models?
My father and mother
What books or other reading matter are on your bedside table right now?
Lately, I have spent more time reading The Economist than anything else.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I don’t self-reflect well, but I think my personality was once described as irreverent. I try to be very supportive and believe people can grow with patience and gentle direction.
What characteristic(s) do you admire most in others? Least?
I admire patience and conversely can’t stand impatience and/or yelling (although I occasionally act that way myself).
What three people, living or dead, would you like to have dinner with? What would be on the menu?
Angela Merkel, Pope Francis and Dave Grohl. We’d have sushi.
What’s your favorite travel destination?
Probably home. I travel too much.
What’s one dramatic change that you predict we’ll see in within the next 10 years?
Self-driving cars and delivery trucks. I hope.
What keeps you up at night?
I worry about our customers’ profitability.


Are You an Industry Insider? Take Our Jargon Quiz to Find Out.

To be an insider in any industry is to speak the lingo. Foodservice is no exception.  From manufacturers to distributors to operators, the use of jargon abounds. It’s convenient. It provides a quicker way to communicate. Referring to an acronym is far more convenient than pronouncing all the consonants and vowels that it stands for.

But, what if you are not an insider? Industry terms and acronyms can be stumbling blocks to those who haven’t yet learned the lingo. This can be an unrecognized aspect of onboarding. We are here to help. We have put together a list of terms and acronyms that are commonly used every day in the foodservice arena.

How much of an industry insider are you? Take our quick jargon quiz to find out and then go to https://insidefoodservicedistribution.com/ifd-insider-terms-acronyms/ to find the correct definitions and our full “dictionary” of foodservice insider terms and acronyms.

Test Your Insider Status

Take our quick quiz to see how many of the terms and acronyms on the list below can you define?

  1. Agency
  2. CRM
  3. Cutting
  4. Daypart
  5. DSR
  6. FSMA
  7. GPO
  8. iFD
  9. LTL
  10. MOH
  11. Monkey dish
  12. OS&D
  13. RCA
  14. Re-Di
  15. WFF

Check your answers here. If you scored:

  • 15 — You’re a true industry insider!
  • 10-14 — You’re prepared to easily converse with industry colleagues.
  • 5-9 — You need to brush up on the lingo.
  • 1-4 — You’re either very new or haven’t been paying attention.

NOW, please let us know in a reply/comment (using box below) how you did, AND if you know of any key industry terms or acronyms we’ve missed in the full list on our site. We’ll make sure they get added.


One for the History Books: Gordon Food Service Buys Ettline Foods

News hit last week that Ettline Foods Corp., York, Pa., has been purchased by Gordon Food Service, the Wyoming, Mich.-based distributor that over the past two decades has expanded its presence in the Northeast, Southeast and Southwest regions of the country.  The acquisition brings together two of foodservice distribution’s longest-standing companies. Gordon this year celebrates its 120th anniversary, while Ettline boasts a few more gray hairs, at 125 years old.

The largest family business in the industry, Gordon Food Service was founded as I. Van Westenbrugge, a butter and egg supplier to local grocers in Grand Rapids, Mich., that made deliveries by horse and buggy.  Today, the company’s sales exceed $12.6 billion, it has more than 17,000 employees in the U.S. and Canada, and ranked No. 23 in Forbes‘ Top 25 Private Companies of 2016. Gordon’s history of growth and innovation has been well chronicled and its visionary leaders are credited with introducing game-changing operational, transportation and marketing innovations to the industry.

Ettline Foods was founded by Oscar O. Ettline as the Ettline Grocery Company, selling dishes, pots, pans, gardening tools and assorted groceries. Weathering a few moves and changes of ownership over the years, the company didn’t really begin to emerge as a broadline contender until the early 1970s, when then-owner George Stallman constructed a new, modern warehouse equipped with inside loading docks, railroad siding, freezer and refrigeration facilities. In 1973, produce was added to the mix and soon thereafter Ettline became one of the early members of the Nugget buying group, boosting its competitive positioning.

Over the next decade and a half, Ettline Foods continued to grow and in 1989 was acquired by Martin Whelan and his family. Whelan was an outsider: A former accountant and chief financial officer, he’d hadn’t worked in the food industry prior to purchasing Ettline. But he was a quick study and as its chairman brought integrity, passion, financial discipline and innovation to Ettline, including establishing an Employee Stock Ownership Plan in 2004. The company had since made that aspect of its business — employee ownership and the dedication to quality that comes with it —  a key point of pride and competitive differentiation.

Ettline’s team, led by long-time President and CEO Joe Ayoub, now begins the task of assimilating into the Gordon Food Service family. In the acquisition announcement, Ayoub commented, “We at Ettline are thrilled to become part of Gordon Food Service, a company that mirrors our commitment to delivering exceptional value, while remaining competitive in a constantly changing market. We sought an organization that would be the right fit for maintaining the same level of quality that we are so committed to. We feel strongly that Gordon Food Service shares our values and will allow Ettline to continue to grow as part of its family. With Gordon Food Service, Ettline is able to continue its 125-year legacy, while proactively planning for the future of distribution and adding deeper support in areas such as menu management, recipe development, and increased buying power with a larger service area.”

Congratulations to Ettline Foods on its long history of perseverance and growth, and to Gordon Food Service on what looks to be both a strategically important and culturally complementary acquisition.


iFD People: John Tracy, Dot Foods

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John Tracy is executive chairman of Dot Foods, the industry’s largest redistributor, based in Mount Sterling, Ill. Founded in 1960 by John’s parents, Robert and Dorothy Tracy, Dot Foods today serves distributors across the U.S. and in 25 countries. The company was listed as 65th on the 2016 Forbes list of America’s Largest Private Companies with 2015 sales of more than $6 billion. One of 12 children, John became president in 1997, CEO in 2006 and recently moved to his role as executive chairman. He continues to be involved in industry initiatives and has been a strong leader on the IFDA (International Foodservice Distributors Association) board of directors.

What are you most proud of in your career?
I am most proud of what our family and our employees have been able to build from the ground up and, while doing that, being responsible for supporting more than 5,000 families with jobs and benefits.

Who are your role models?
My mom is easily my favorite role model for a multitude of reasons, although the list of people I admire is long and diverse.

What books or other reading matter are on your bedside table right now?
I love to read and always try to have a fun book and an educational book going, depending on my mood. Currently, they’re “House of Spies” by Daniel Silva and “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek.

How would you describe your leadership style?
I usually leave that question for others to answer, as I am not sure any of us is the best judge of our own personal style and how that style affects others.

What book has had the greatest impact on your leadership style?
Not one single book and too many to list, although books about leaders that are not autobiographies are generally always impactful. They portray the strengths and imperfections of great leaders and always make me think, as well as being fun to read.

What characteristic(s) do you admire most in others?
Humility, sense of humor, ongoing appetite to learn, curiosity, listening and communication

Which three people, living or dead, would you like to be marooned with on a desert island?
It would always start with my wife and kids, but after that it would include Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. They’d be a fascinating group to listen to and learn from.

How would you describe yourself in one word?
Fortunate (or lucky)

What’s one dramatic change that you predict we’ll see in within the next 10 years?
Distribution companies’ biggest competitors in almost all industries will all be technology companies, and that may happen sooner rather than later.

What keeps you up at night?
Concerns about making the wrong decision and hurting our family, company and employees’ future is always first. Specific to a part of the business, it’s concerns about having the right quality and quantity of talent needed to be prepared for the opportunities available so that we remain relevant long-term.

About iFD People: We designed iFD People as a series of blog posts to introduce foodservice distribution leaders, sales stars and others who have made or are making history in the industry and to share their personal insights. It’s part of our commitment to highlighting heritage, people and progress through iFD’s corporate history writing services.

Amazon in Talks to Buy Sysco?

Now that would be an attention-getting headline! Trouble is, it would also be fake news (at least as far as we know).

Our point is how easy it is to spread “alternative facts.” All it takes is a post on social media, particularly if it has information about famous people or, in this case, an industry leader.

Can this happen to your company? Yes, very easily. Unfortunately, there are people who use social media to spread fake news either as an underhanded competitive tactic or just because they feel like doing it.

How can you preempt being a victim of fake news? Tell the real news first and often. You know the real story of your company: what it stands for, how it has grown, the values on which it was founded, where it is headed. Your brand’s story should play an integral role in how you go to market, how you build relationships with customers, suppliers and the community. It should also be part of your consistent messaging to employees, who can be effective and credible advocates in the event that a fake news story breaks and gains traction.

Developing and communicating your company’s story is not just a feel-good exercise, it’s a critical business strategy. Your story is your promise and your biggest point of difference. Let’s face it: All broadline distributors today have essentially the same products, pricing and services. But you have something no other company has — your own unique, very real story. Don’t wait to start telling it.


iFD People: Bob Goldin – Pentallect, Chicago

We highlight heritage, people and progress through our corporate history writing services. We’ve designed iFD People as a series to introduce foodservice distribution leaders, sales stars and others who have made or are making history in the industry. We offer 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? Here is our third profile in the series.

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Bob Goldin has a new gig as co-founder and partner at Pentallect Inc.  The Chicago-based consulting firm specializes in emerging and specialty food industry segments and channels, including club stores/cash-and-carry, consumer- and business-direct, specialty distribution, nontraditional retail and ethnic markets.

For many years, Bob was vice chairman at Technomic Inc. He headed the firm’s research and consulting practice and created and directed major programs including Volumix, iLAB, Long-Term Forecasting, Distributor Intelligence Report and the Foodservice Category Management Institute.

He created the Foodservice Essentials training program in cooperation with the International Foodservice Distributors Association, which has been responsible for onboarding many people new to the industry. He cut his teeth in distribution at CFS Continental.

People may not know that Bob is also a certified public accountant. He has a BA and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

What are you most proud of in your career?
To have had a platform and support system at Technomic and Pentallect that enable me to provide my perspectives and analysis of the industry and to interact with industry leaders.

When you think of icons in the industry, who comes to mind first?
BG: John Woodhouse and John Baugh. I’d also include Howard Schultz on the list. And, as did everyone who knew him, I adored Sam Bailin.

Who are your role models?
BG: Ron Paul, who was a great mentor and boss at Technomic in addition to being a true industry guru.

What books or other reading matter are on your bedside table right now?
BG: I have a fully loaded Kindle to accommodate my eclectic reading tastes. Right now I am plowing through “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow and “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance. I also recently discovered George Saunders, whose short stories amaze me.

If you could time travel to another point in history, when would it be?
BG: I’d love to relive my formative years, knowing then what I know now.

If you could come back as a particular person or thing, who/what would that be?
BG: It probably sounds a bit crass, but I sure wouldn’t mind coming back as Frank Sinatra.

What three people, living or dead, would you like to have dinner with?
BG: Jeff Bezos, John F. Kennedy, Louis Armstrong

How would you describe yourself in one word?
BG: Candid

What’s one dramatic change that you predict we’ll see in within the next 10 years?
BG: Massive improvements in health care, with Big Data and technology having a huge positive impact on prevention, treatment and overall outcomes.

Birth of a Giant: Sysco Nears 50 Years

Half a century ago, John Baugh, who had been a president of the National Frozen Food Distributors Association, was mulling over the direction of foodservice. He started meeting several times a year with a few of his distributor friends to discuss the future. Where was the industry going? What role would distribution play? How could they take advantage of changes that could occur? What might those changes be?

Baugh was not unfamiliar with managing change. In 1946, he left his position as manager of a flagship A&P supermarket in Houston and started Zero Foods, a retail frozen food distribution company. The concept of frozen foods was exploding, strangely enough as an unexpected consequence of World War II. Canned food required precious metals, which had been rationed, so another process was needed. Enter frozen foods. Frozen French fries and fish portions were flying off grocery store shelves.

Retail frozen food distributors, who had responded to the demand, owned the market and provided good customer service. Their salesmen arranged merchandise in display cases and kept them stocked. But their success was to be short-lived: Grocery chains quickly recognized the emerging profit center and soon decided to take frozen food distribution in-house. Eventually, those pioneering retail distributors turned to foodservice. It was the 1950s, the halcyon days of convenience foods. Frozen was in and foodservice demand was growing fast.

Baugh and his cohorts identified multiunit restaurant chains as a new growth opportunity and realized it would take a different type of distributor to service their geographic needs. They decided the best approach would be to band together to obtain financing for product line and facilities expansions and to increase their geographic reach.

Ultimately, 10 companies joined forces. They had a public offering in 1969 and, by March 1970, Sysco – short for Systems and Service Co. – was launched. John Baugh, the visionary behind the effort, was the conglomerate’s first chairman.

The rest, as they say, is history. The idea proved to be a brilliant one and as the foodservice industry grew, so did Sysco. By the end of its first decade, Sysco had 35 operating companies and sales of more than $1 billion. Today, Sysco continues to lead the foodservice distribution industry with 198 distribution facilities serving 425,000 customers. With more than $50 billion in sales, it is focused on growing in U.S. markets as well as globally.

By joining forces, understanding change and having a vision for the future – essentially serving as the ‘disruptors’ of their time – those companies, led by Baugh, gave birth to the giant that is still No. 1 in the industry. Soon, Sysco will turn 50, with decades of growth to celebrate. All because of 10 founders who had a vision for the future.