You might say this company makes it convenient for stores and restaurants to get food. McLane Company is one of the largest wholesale suppliers of food products in the US, serving more than 65,000 retail stores and foodservice operators from about 40 distribution centers. Its grocery and retail distribution division serves convenience stores, drugstores, and mass merchants, including Wal-Mart (30% of sales). The company's McLane Foodservice division delivers food, paper products, and other supplies to chain restaurants and other foodservice providers. McLane also distributes alcoholic beverages in the southeastern US. The company was founded in 1894 and is owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.
McLane Co. does business in all 50 US states. The company also provides logistics services in Brazil and exports to more than 25 countries worldwide.
McLane's sales grew by nearly 2% in 2011 vs. the prior year, to top $33 billion. The grocery and foodservice units comprised 98% of the company's total revenue in 2011. McLane credited the sales gain to the inclusion of a full-year's results for beverage wholesalers Empire Distributors and Horizon Wine and Spirits, both acquired in 2010. The company's performance has improved along with the US economy, posting sales gains in each of the past three years.
Changing trends in the grocery business have presented McLane with new opportunities. As dollar stores have moved forcefully into food retailing, McLane in 2012 entered into a partnership with one of the nation's largest dollar store operators, Family Dollar Stores, to supply a variety of merchandise, including refrigerated and frozen food, to the chain's 7,200-plus locations across 45 states.
McLane has been expanding in recent years, building up an alcohol distribution business with a series of acquisitions beginning in 2010. It purchased Kahn Ventures, whose holdings included Empire Distributors (serving Georgia) and Empire Distributors of North Carolina. According to Buffet, the acquisition is part of the shared vision of Berkshire, McLane, and Kahn to develop innovation opportunities and to grow and lead the beverage industry. McLane added to its Empire operations by acquiring Tennessee-based distributor Horizon Wine and Spirits later in the year. Gaining access to resources and operational best practices in the beverage distribution arena, McLane is positioned for further growth in the sector.
As a dominant player in the wholesale supply business, McLane's grocery division competes in a league of giants, including C & S Wholesale, Nash-Finch, and Core-Mark, while its foodservice unit fights for business with such industry leaders as SYSCO, U.S. Foodservice, and Performance Food Group. Wholesale distribution continues to be a highly fragmented industry, however, meaning the company must also compete with a patchwork of regional and local suppliers. Mega-retailer Wal-Mart accounts for about a third of McLane's revenue. East Coast convenience store chain Wawa is also major customer.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Aside from the recent beverage acquisitions, McLane in 2012 agreed to buy North Carolina-based Meadowbrook Meat Company (MBM) for an undisclosed price. With $6 billion in sales, MBM is one of the largest foodservice distributors for national restaurant chains. Its customers include Arby's, Burger King, and Darden Restaurants. The deal will substantially increase McLane's size by adding to its foodservice unit, which already serves more than 20,000 chain restaurants.
Starting as a family-owned grocery store, McLane expanded into wholesale distribution in the early 1900s. The McLane family, including Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane, sold the business to Wal-Mart Stores in the 1990s. Berkshire Hathaway acquired McLane Company in 2003 for about $1.5 billion. – less