Progressive Group Alliance, a Richmond, Va.-based umbrella company made up of distributors Pocahontas Foods USA, All Kitchens of America and Bakery Distributors of America, has formed a fourth distributor group, Buonamici International.
Independent distributor affiliates of the new group will serve pizzerias and Italian restaurants almost exclusively.
Currently Buonamici includes five affiliates, but according to Ross Violi, the group's managing director, the goal is to have at least 30 members. None of the members are or will be owned by Progressive Group Alliance.
"This is not an acquisition or a consolidation, this is simply a creation of a new division within Progressive Group that is more narrow in scope," said Violi. "There's no specific product line developed for this. Our company has over 650 vendor contracts, and all we're wanting to do is allow more buying opportunities within the group."
Violi would name only three of the five Buonamici affliates, saying the completion of agreements between the others
At present, Buonamici accounts for just a 3 percent slice of Progressive Group Alliances' $23 billion in annual sales, said Violi.
As a unit, Progressive Group Alliance has 887 distribution outlets.
Let the battle begin
Buonamici is a trademarked name Violi created from two Italian words to mean "good friends."
He expects that over time, however, it may come to mean "strong competitor" to Bellissimo Foods, a Lafayette, Calif.-based independent distributor buying group also targeting pizzerias and Italian restaurants.
According to its Web site, the Bellissimo buying group includes 31 distributor affiliates operating about twice that number of distribution outlets. The group serves some 22,000 pizzerias.
Violi said Buonamici will differ from Bellissimo is in its depth of resources. Not only will it provide a strong buying network, distributors -- and ultimately their customers -- will benefit from value-added services brought to the table by Pocahontas (one of the nation's oldest foodservice distributors), All Kitchens and Bakery Distributors of America. Buyers have access to a broad range of products, plus they can get help with a broad range of business services such as training, local marketing and general business consulting.
"We have always placed a high degree of importance on training, and our distributors find those services very useful," Violi said. "For example, we may do a hub workshop in a place like Cincinnati, attract six or seven distributors who'll send salespeople from all around that area, and they'll have access to Pocahontas and All Kitchens persons there. These are people from experienced, established distributors who can help them."
Bellissimo President Jeff McGuire declined to comment on the new upstart, saying only, "We're watching very closely."
Mark Mizer president of RDP Foodservice said he's looking forward to tapping into the Buonamici pipeline.
"It gives us the opportunity to share ideas with other people in different markets," Mizer said. "It allows us to bounce ideas off each
"This is not an acquisition or a consolidation, this is simply a creation of a new division within Progressive Group that is more narrow in scope. There's no specific product line developed for this. Our company has over 650 vendor contracts, and all we're wanting to do is allow more buying opportunities within the group."
-- Ross Violi
Mizer said joining the group also allows his company to serve small to mid-size pizza chains as they expand regionally.
"It gives an operator one unified face across the country for multi-unit purposes," said Mizer, adding that RDP's only other distribution outlet is in Cleveland. "Say a multi-unit guy comes to me and wants to open a shop in Kentucky or Indiana. With this thing up and running, he won't have a concern about needing to go with a broadliner. He can get the same products and same everything knowing these distributors are part of the group."
RDP had wanted to join a buying group for some time, Mizer said, but given his 10 years experience with Houston-based Sysco Foodservice, the standards he sought made the choice challenging.
Some time ago, RDP paired with Pocahontas to broaden its non-Italian offerings. Knowing RDP would remain connected to Pocahontas sold Mizer and his partners on joining Buonamici.
"Sysco was the best in the industry, so when we took a look at joining a buying group, we had the best to compare it to," Mizer said. "Pocahontas had a lot of the support Sysco has, so to know that when you're talking about Buonamici, you're talking about all that too, that helped us decide."