Federated Group, which will celebrate its 90th year in business this December, brought its annual show back to a historic landmark, The Drake Hotel in Chicago. Federated Group takes over the luxurious venue and invites attendees, many of whom return every year, to catch up with a first-night cocktail reception.
Jen Linke, VP of brand management at Federated Group, told The Shelby Report’s Midwest VP Geoff Welch the reception lays the foundation for what will happen over the course of the following two days. Attendees meet up with friends they’ve made through Federated Group to catch up before they get down to business.
“People are hugging and shaking hands, and it just sets the mood for a very uplifting, exciting and successful show,” she said. “We run a very efficient show. The appointments are short and to the point. Everyone is there to get business done.”
This year 26 customer companies and 61 vendors took part in the show. Federated Group gained two customers since last year’s event, including mass merchant retailer Shopko, which is based in Green Bay, and Banner Wholesale, a Chicago-area company that distributes to independent retailers. Banner has taken on customers from the now-defunct Dearborn Wholesale Grocers, and distributes Federated Group’s Parade brand.
“It’s brought Parade back to Chicago, so that’s really great,” Linke said. “We know private label very well, and neither (Shopko or Banner Wholesale) has been strong in private label grocery sales in recent years, so they’re looking for ways to get back into that.”
Federated Group can customize its program to fit the needs of companies seeking to grow their food business.
“Federated fits that bill very well for them,” Linke said. “The fact that we own our own brands gives us a unique perspective that some of our competitors don’t have. Banner needed a brand, and Federated could step up to the plate with that by offering Parade. Shopko is looking to develop their own brand, and we have as much experience in that. And again, because we are brand owners, we can help them design a program and know what products they should be in based on their regionality, based on how our own products perform and how best to get into that because we have a huge supplier network that allows us to work collaboratively together between the suppliers, the customer and us.”
Private brand offers an increased margin for retailers, and it is a growing sector, primarily due to younger consumers, Millennials in particular, who are less brand loyal than previous generations.
“They’re truly looking for value, and that’s really what private label speaks to,” Linke said. “It’s the quality at a good price. I also think private brands give a retailer loyalty because people do come back once they realize, ‘I can buy more product using the money that I have—even on a fixed income or a limited income—because I can afford more.’ The dollar goes further.”
Federated Group offers the Better Valu, Hy-Top and Red & White labels in addition to Parade, and also is expanding Seven Farms, its organic brand. It is called Seven Farms because each item must represent at least one of Federated Group’s “seven pillars of sensible eating.” They include being certified organic, gluten free, non-GMO, vegan, Fair Trade, containing no artificial preservatives and having no sugar added. Linke said Seven Farms is a million-dollar brand.
“It’s grown to more than a million-dollar brand in the short time period that it has existed,” she said. “It has grown that fast.”
Federated Group, explained
Federated Group’s corporate office is located in Arlington Heights, just outside Chicago. The company has representatives all over the country. It comprises four different enterprises: retail, foodservice, logistics, and a marketing and design group called SailPointe. That’s one of the areas Linke oversees.
“The retail side is our biggest, and that’s what the show focuses on in July,” she said. “We were established in 1927, so for 90 years we’ve been supporting the retail and wholesale private brand industry. We’re a strong, debt-free, privately held company. We serve over 9,000 stores, which are made up of our 36 retail and wholesale customers. We represent over 18,000 SKUs, which encompass over 380 different brand names.”
The company’s expertise is private label sales and management. Federated has a broad base of more than 600 suppliers it has worked with or works with at any given time.
“Our long-term relationships really make for strong, collaborative work—and help grow food business both for suppliers and the retail and wholesale customers,” Linke said.
Federated Group works to solve problems by getting to their root, whether through analytics or studying the competition, for example, to help customers stay on track and reach their goals.
She said few companies like Federated Group have retail shows, and she believes that alone makes it stand out.
“We have had more than 60 shows, and people have been coming to our shows for 20-30 years,” Linke said. “I think that speaks to the fact that they’re productive, that they work, that they’re serving a need in the industry, and we’re proud of that. I say thank you to our customers for coming and making that work, because it is a great opportunity for suppliers to see a large number of customers in a really short span of time and yet conduct true, meaningful business to keep things moving forward.”
Linke has been with the company for about three and a half years and said she enjoys working for Federated Group. She points to integrity as the number one reason why.
“It’s a core value of ours that we don’t just talk about, we don’t just put on a piece of paper,” Linke said. “We truly embody it. For everybody at Federated, whether they’re in the corporate office working in the accounting department or IT department or out in the field—it truly is a relationship between customers and suppliers. We value integrity, and we do what is right for our customers and for our suppliers, for all the people we work with and for ourselves.”
She said it is rewarding to help mid-size and independent grocers and wholesalers grow in such a dynamic industry.
“I’m thrilled to see that we can make a difference,” she said. “We ebb and flow and change with the growing needs. It makes it challenging, but that also makes it an exciting place to work.”