WENCARWencar’s long-tenured and knowledgeable employees keep it in close contact with its independent convenience store customers. By Jim Harris

Every month, Wencar Vice President Keith Meschi hands out pins commemorating staff anniversaries. In August, one of those pins went to Nelgeene Taylor, a 31-year employee of the Corpus Christi, Texas, independent wholesale distributor.

Recognizing long-tenured employees is not uncommon for Meschi. “Most of our people have been here for 10 years or more, and our turnover rate is very low,” he says. “Everyone here knows our success stems from the way they do their jobs, which includes taking care of our customers in a special way.”

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Brothers Food MartBrothers Food Mart is looking to expand throughout the Gulf region. By Chris Kelsch

New Orleans, La., is a city known for many things, including food and music. Just as important, it is also known as a city that pulls together in times of crisis.

That is vitally important to Brothers Food Mart owner Eddie Hamdan, who oversees 45 convenience stores throughout the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas. “We are really a part of the city of New Orleans,” Hamdan says. “And we try and get involved as much as we can.”

Getting involved means stepping up when needed. In February, New Orleans was hit with a devastating tornado, said to be the strongest to hit the city in recorded history. Hamdan notes Brothers Food Mart was there to aid the stricken community. “We took part in the recovery efforts,” Hamdan says, “providing food and other supplies as needed. We really try and do everything we can.”

Capital OilFuel supplier Capital Oil sees opportunity in the transportation and wholesale markets. By Tim O’Connor

Regulations can have unintended consequences, forcing companies to adapt or change their businesses to survive. Take the federal Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS), a 2007 mandate dictating that biofuels such as ethanol needed to be blended with gasoline, resulting in E-10 gasoline that has 10 percent ethanol content. To ensure fuel producers and importers were meeting blending targets, the EPA created Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), a designated number that tracks the production of every gallon of ethanol-infused gasoline.

The EPA had assumed that only companies that produced or imported fuel would blend gasoline and ethanol, and therefore produce RINs. However, a loophole in the regulations allowed non-producers to become blenders and generate RINs, creating a market for RINs to be sold as commodities.

“Because these companies are not producers or importers, they do not need RINs to track the progress of the RFS mandate,” says Stanley Roberts, founder of Capital Oil.

Natures SunshineNature’s Sunshine prides itself on providing not only quality products, but also 45 years of innovation in the industry.

Celebrating 45 years of sharing wellness with the world, Nature’s Sunshine has eclipsed a milestone that few supplement companies have reached. Founded in 1972 by the Hughes family with a single innovative idea — put herbs into capsules for easy-to-take supplements — Nature’s Sunshine became the first U.S. company to encapsulate herbs and helped shape the nutritional supplement industry that we have today.

The Lehi, Utah-based company has since grown from a small, family-owned company to a global corporation with operations in more than 40 countries. While herbal supplements remain a hallmark of the company, Nature’s Sunshine offers more than 600 natural and nutraceutical products in the United States and more than 2,700 globally. The company operates under a multi-brand, multi-channel model featuring two brands, Nature’s Sunshine and Synergy Worldwide, and a network of more than 500,000 independent distributors, natural health practitioners and retail storeowners.

Graham C Stores

Graham C-Stores makes large investments as it celebrates 80 years in business. By Kat Zeman

Petroleum runs through their veins. As third generation pioneers of the gasoline marketing and oil business, Mike and John Graham know their industry.

Their grandfather, Eugene Graham Sr., founded Graham Oil in 1938 as a venture into the petroleum and gasoline market, delivering fuel and oil to homes and farms in Illinois. By 1954, Eugene’s two sons, Jack and Eugene Jr., joined their father and the family acquired its first group of full-service gas stations with repair shops. It also became a distributor for Sinclair Oil.

By the 1990s, the third generation took over, expanding into the convenience store business and becoming Graham C-Stores Company. “We have tripled in size since taking over in 1991,” says Mike Graham, who co-owns Graham C-Stores with his brother John. “We continue to impact the market with consistent, quality offerings which drive more business to our retail outlets.”

Wellshire FarmsWellshire Farms pioneered the movement away from over-processed meats. By Tim O’Connor

Few people knew what “clean eating” was in the mid-1990s when Louis Colameco started the company that would become Wellshire Farms. Organic foods were still a small market and families didn’t look as closely at nutrition labels.

But Colameco had a vision for selling meats free of preservatives and antibiotics. After some initial success selling spiral sliced holiday hams with his father, Colameco founded his own company focused on all-natural meat and deli products. “I wanted a better way for my kids to eat, my family to eat, and I realized it could be done,” he says.

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LiDestri creates strategic partnerships and leads the industry with innovations in products, processing and packaging.

By Stephanie Crets

For more than 40 years, LiDestri has combined innovation and collaboration to become the premier private-label and contract manufacturer of food, beverages and spirits. From pasta sauce and salsa to packing and processing innovations, LiDestri has been and continues to be a pioneer in the industry. And with the recent transition of presidency from Giovanni LiDestri to his children, co-presidents Stefani LiDestri and John LiDestri, the company is poised to break more ground in food and beverage processing and packaging.

In just the past eight months, the company launched a High-Pressure Processing (HPP) tolling station and increased its capacity to process cold fill aseptic beverages; both in response to ever-growing demand from a more health-conscious consumer base. LiDestri also brought to market ‘Living Jar,’ a more sustainable and shatterproof sauce package that instantly began winning prestigious awards. And new products are rolling out of its Innovation Center like clockwork.

“Creating a shift as we have in the last six years has been a lot for the organization to digest, and it’s pivoting mostly due to our diversification efforts,” Stefani LiDestri says. “My father really started to recognize the commoditization of the sauce market meant we would have to get outside of our comfort zone and tap into other products, processing and packaging. It’s really about our strategic initiatives of diversification to remain relevant and to become true innovators.”

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MegaMadnessEvent

MEGA Group USA helps retailers buy better, increase traffic and strengthen profits through its membership services.

By Stephanie Crets

Sometimes retailers need an extra bit of help to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace. That’s where MEGA Group USA comes in, helping retailers buy better, increase traffic and strengthen their profitability through services like merchandising, advertising, retail financing, training and product protection. The group has 1,800 members with more than 3,000 storefronts and about 250 vendors among which its members can purchase. It serves the appliance, electronics, furniture, mattress and outdoor product industries.

Most of its members are mom-and-pop stores in secondary and tertiary markets, operating in smaller towns. “Our members need to be able to buy, advertise and look just like a big-box retailer without having the footprint of a big-box store,” says Missy Hodges, vice president of appliances at MEGA Group. “We’re making sure that members are taking advantage of everything out there as the competition continues to grow. Most of our storeowners have been in the business for many years, starting at the bottom and working their way up. We encourage our dealers to continue to educate themselves and stay savvy in their business.”

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