Where Your Food Comes From: The 9 Corporations That Feed America Slideshow

These foodservice companies supply most of the country’s restaurants, hotels, and schools

9) Ben E. Keith

The ninth-largest foodservice distributor in the U.S. as well as the fourth-largest beverage distributor, Ben E. Keith services 11 states, with Texas at the center. Their 2012 revenue clocked in at $3.08 billion, and they’re ranked by Forbes’ as the 139th largest private company in America. Offerings range from the lower-end Keith’s Choice (“Grade B [products that] usually have the greatest appeal among foodservice operators, as they are moderately priced and are adaptable to many applications”) to Keith’s Homestyle (“the answer for the value-conscious or bid customer”) to the higher-end Keith’s Premium (“packaged above top line specifications, and … superior quality products”) to Keith’s Exclusive, which includes their branded line of onion rings, cheese sauce, puddings, and corn dogs. 

8) Maines Paper & Food Service

Maines is the 138th largest private company in America, according to Forbes, with 2012 revenues of $3.08 billion. They operate nine distribution centers (pictured) throughout the U.S. and service restaurants, convenience stores, schools (including Cornell), and hospitals in 33 states. Their “signature brands” range from Italian products (Trifoglio) to fresh seafood (Pierport) to pork and beef (Gold Canyon).

7) Shamrock Foods, Co.

This broadline distributor of foods and foodservice products services the Rocky Mountain and Southwest region of the U.S., and is the country’s seventh-largest foodservice distributor.  They also run Shamrock Farms, the Southwest’s largest dairy. They’re the vendor of 32 brands, which are incidentally just about identical to the ones used by Maines. Based in Phoenix, the company was founded in 1922 and is still family-owned. 

6) Food Services of America

This company, founded in 1986, operates 10 regional distribution centers in 17 states.  They’re a part of the larger Services Group of America, which is involved in everything from real estate development to supply chain efficiencies. They offer three “Signature” levels of supply: 5-star, which includes “best in class products,” 3-star, “Great quality at a good value,” and 1-star, “Low cost, dependable products.” Fresh produce comes from Snoboy, which is owned by Amerifresh, one of FSA’s sister-companies, and the rest of their foods come from a lot of the same companies that the above ones use. 

5) Reinhart Food Service

With 30 distribution centers across 45 states, Reinhart is the country’s fifth-largest foodservice distributor. Not surprisingly, their brand list looks just like the others, with Bountiful Harvest, Brickfire Bakery, and Chef Mark turning up once again. It’s becoming clear that it’s not the food that’s the main event with many of these companies, it’s the “services and solutions.”

4) Gordon Food Service

Gordon is the country’s largest privately-held food distributor, with sales estimated at about $10 billion for 2012. They operate warehouses in seven states, and also run Marketplace stores in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. They sell a wide variety of products from their house brands (GFS, Kitchen Essentials, and Gordon Signature). Additional brands include—what do you know?—Brickman, Hearthstone, and Harvest Valley, brands that keep showing up over and over again.

3) Performance Foods

Performance provides food to more than 100,000 customers nationally, with a 5 percent market share. They operate many private label brands, including Magellan, Heritage Ovens, Ridgecrest Appetizers and Soup Bases, and West Creek, which provides pre-sliced fruit. Their beef comes from Braveheart, which is also owned by Performance. Once we get into these major national distributors it’s no longer about getting food from companies that supply all the others; it’s about vertical integration, or owning as many of your suppliers as possible. The photo is of President and CEO George Holm presenting a check to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief. 

2) US Foods

US Foods is an absolutely massive operation, the 10th largest private company in America, with annual revenues of around $21 Billion and a 9 percent market share. They sell more than 350,000 different products (provided by companies including 12 that are owned by them) to about 250,000 customers, and employ 25,000 people in 75 locations nationwide. It was known as U.S. Foodservice until 2011, when it became US Foods, "reflecting its strategic focus on creating a better food offering and an easier service experience for customers." While all the previous companies are certainly large, this one dwarfs them all. It’s not the biggest foodservice company in America, though; not by a long shot. 

1) Sysco

Sysco, an acronym for Systems and Services Company, is the world’s largest food distributor, with a whopping 18 percent of the market share. They have more than 400,000 clients and 149 locations in the U.S. and Canada. While 63% of their food goes to restaurants, the rest supplies hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, schools and colleges, and everywhere else you’d consider eating anything, like movie theaters and ballparks. Sales this year have averaged about $10 billion per quarter. Sysco is the 55th largest company in the U.S. by total revenue, and the 3rd-largest non oil-based company based in Texas, behind AT&T and Dell.

They offer six “Brand Products," ranging from Reliance Sysco, “economy-relied products targeted to middle-class customers,” to Supreme Sysco, “premium and rare products targeted to upper-class customers.”

Sysco also operates SYGMA, which supplies food and non-food products exclusively to chain restaurants, “over 2675 customers servicing 13,600 restaurants representing 37 concepts,” according to the company. While the names of SYGMA’s chain restaurant customers aren’t available, it can be safely assumed that the big guys who come to mind all get their food from the same exact place. The company also helps support organizations like the American Cancer Society, the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army.