When the folks at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams were building its wholesale business, they could not secure a distributor. They were told the ice cream wouldn’t sell enough to make it worthwhile to carry. So Jeni’s began selling its tasty treats directly from its production kitchen to grocery stores across the country, making it the first ice cream company to do so.
Jeni’s pints are packed into boxes filled with dry ice and delivered via UPS− a method that has resulted in low shipping rates, low dry ice costs (Jeni’s claims to be the largest buyer of dry ice in Ohio), and a team that is very good at processing orders. So who better to help artisan food producers get their products on retailers’ shelves?
“We created Eat Well, so we can leverage that order-taking-to-fulfillment expertise for other great small food businesses,” says John Lowe, CEO of Eat Well Distribution.
Launched in early 2012, Eat Well handles not only wholesale distribution, but also sales and account management, on-site product sampling, product line development, and sourcing.
“We are still learning what customers and clients need and want,” Lowe says. “Perhaps more than anything, right now we are acting almost as brokers, helping food companies think about how to package and tell their story and then doing the sales calls for them.”
Eat Well currently operates out of a small office and 17,000-square-foot warehouse within a block of the Jeni’s production kitchen in Harrison West. It also uses an off-site cold storage facility.
The company has about 20 employees, the majority of whom sample products at grocery stores across the country.
“Locally, we have a single person dedicated to sales for Eat Well −Steve Barrish− who is just perfect for the job,” Lowe says. “He spent six months in New Zealand with his wife, a long-time Jeni’s employee, working on organic farms. He is very connected to farmers and producers, and has become a member of the team for some our clients, like Luna Burger.”
Other Eat Well clients include Shagbark Seed & Mill, Simple Squares, and Sukhi’s Gourmet Indian Foods.
When it comes to the amount of growth Eat Well can expect to experience in the near future, Lowe says only time will tell.
“Any time I hear people tell me they have a three-year business plan, I think, ‘BS, you can’t'” he says. “You have to be nimble. You have to constantly try new things, fail, learn, try again. We are still figuring out exactly whether Eat Well can fill a niche. I think it is, and will, because I think we have a bunch of great food incubators in Columbus, and residents who value the health, taste and craftsmanship of local food producers.”
To learn more about Eat Well Distribution, visit EatWellDistribution.com.