Black River Produce sold to midwest food giant

brp-logo-largeBy Shawn Cunningham and Cynthia Prairie
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Reinhart Foodservice, the nation’s fifth largest distributor of food to restaurants and institutions with 29 warehouses in the east, midwest and south, announced Friday that it has agreed to buy the brand names and distribution business of Springfield based Black River Produce. Some aspects of the business will remain under local ownership.

Black River Produce is a regional food distributor founded in 1978 by Mark Curran and Steve Birge. It now serves more than 2,000 accounts across Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island and New York.

Curran told The Telegraph late Friday that Reinhart, based in Illinois, bought Burlington Food Service 10 years ago and two years ago opened a new distribution center in Essex. Curran noted that Reinhart doesn’t have a strong presence in Southern Vermont or with local products. “We specialize in local and fresh,” said Curran. “That is something that they want.”

In a press release, Jeff King, Reinhart president and COO, said, “Black River Produce is a great company with strong management focused on delivering the highest quality local products and service to its customers. The Black River culture, product strategy as well as the proximity of its territory to key Reinhart markets, makes this acquisition a strong fit for both companies.”

black-river-produce“Since we founded Black River Produce in 1978, we’ve prided ourselves on being the fresh connection for our customers across the markets we serve,”  said Curran and Birge in the press release. “We are proud to join our operations with Reinhart so that we can combine their national leverage, supply chain expertise and operator solutions with our passion and focus on local solutions for our growing customer base.”

Curran told The Telegraph that the sale will mean that if a farmer has a lot more produce he needs to move, Black River now can take it because Reinhart has a bigger area to distribute it through.

Curran said Black River Produce’s iconic strawberry logo won’t change. “Reinhart understands the value our brand,” he said, adding that the name may be modified to Black River Provisions to reflect what the company can now offer.

Three-year old Precision Valley Food Specialties, which runs a meat packing operation in the former Ben & Jerry’s plant in North Springfield and the warehouse on River Street in Springfield will continue to be owned by the original partners in Black River Produce.

As for changes within the distribution center, Curran expects to be expanding the staff  to help increase distribution of local meats and artisan cheeses. Curran said he and Birge will stay on for the next two to four years, as they head for retirement since “we’re both in our mid-60s.” Curran is a Chester resident.

Founded in 1972, Reinhart is a subsidiary of Reyes Holdings, which also owns Martin Brower, the distributor to nearly half of all the McDonald’s in the world. Earlier this year, Forbes Magazine ranked Reyes Holdings as the 12th largest privately held company in the United States.

The transaction is expected to close on Oct. 24.

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