Piggly Wiggly Alabama Distributing Co. started in 1959 when 27 Piggly Wiggly owners formed the distributing company in an effort to obtain greater buying power.
The company began with a single warehouse, called the Birmingham Food Terminal, with a rented outside freezer and refrigeration facilities. In 1967, the company – known then as the “Birmingham Warehouse” – relocated to larger facilities. It grew from 115,000 square feet to 185,000 square feet, serving Piggly Wigglys exclusively, according to PWADC archive documents.
Since then, PWADC has posted explosive success, now serving more than 270 stores – not all of them Piggly Wiggly – in seven states.
As noted on its website, “Located in Bessemer, Alabama, PWADC provides independent operators the freshest and highest quality bakery/deli, grocery, meat and produce items, as well as advertising services, distribution warehouse and transportation, real accounting, Retail Pricing Management System, three annual food shows and store engineering.”
The company operates from a 1-million-square-foot warehouse that houses all of its operations, from crane operators to corporate offices. The warehouse is the third over a span of 30 years, according to George Davis, department head of grocery shipping. As of March, Davis has been with PWADC 30 years.
“We’ve grown like kudzu since I started,” he said. “The warehouse was half the size it is now…employees were about half as well. I’ve been through – wow – three expansions of the warehouse. I guess I could say that people are going to eat, we need to eat and people need to get their food from somewhere. I’m glad it’s us.”
Meat Receiving Manager Marty Allred is a 40-plus-year veteran of PWADC. He briefly expounded upon the company’s expansion. “We moved down here, where we are now, in 1988, and we’ve added on more forklift drivers, employees, you name it. We’ve grown tremendously.”
The current warehouse has seen major improvements as well.
In previous The Shelby Report coverage, where PWADC was named the 2019 Southeast Wholesaler of the Year, the company was undergoing an extensive $1 million lighting project. The goal was to help the warehouse become more “green and energy efficient,” Matt Peters, VP of finance, said at the time.
At the same time, PWADC completed the installation of electric-power receptacles on the refrigerated units to cool delivery trucks more efficiently.
To maintain a steady workforce, Corporate Director of HR Herb Clark has worked closely with members of the local community to encourage workers to join The Pig.
The company has been taking the usual routes of attending job fairs and placing ads and billboards. But Clark has devised some unique recruiting tactics.
“We speak with teachers and guidance counselors from all area high schools,” he said. “They’ll pull out the kids that aren’t going to college but are good kids and are looking for somewhere to work. And I would say that probably 60 percent of the group didn’t even know we were here.”
The company also is making plans to attend local parent teacher association meetings. “Those are things, years ago, you would have never thought about doing,” Clark said.
While the industry as a whole continues to weather inflation and a slowed supply chain, PWADC works closely with its members because they are the owners.
“It’s truly a business partnership with the retailers. It’s not just a tagline,” Peters said. “The people that we serve own a piece of our cooperative. We don’t have three or four stockholders, the owners of the company are also the retailers that we service.”
That partnership comes with a number of benefits for members, including POS and field support.
“Retags, remodels, grand openings, new case equipment, research, I mean we truly care about the retailers,” said Kenny Hamilton, director of meat, deli and bakery. “We have people that are going out on the street. They go out and assist our customers and help them be successful. That differentiates us from other distributors that are just offering a quick sale.”
PWADC is focused on building from within to help throughout. The company offers a variety of retail services, including advertising, retail store development, engineering and pricing. Advertising is one of the most prominent. Without it, retailers can’t build their brand.
Some of the advertising services PWADC offers its members include:
- Customer-tailored circular and newspaper ad layouts
- Discounted printing
- Web pages/Facebook management
- Window and specialty signs and banners designs
- Gift certificates
Retail store development is one of the distributor’s largest service arms. PWADC finds a way to help, whether co-op members need advice or help with event coordination, merchandising, operations or sales.
“We try to help them wherever we can with any of their analytics,” said Dominic Baldone, director of grocery procurement. “But it all comes down to what the retailers want to do.”
He added that the services provided are suggestions. And that is one of the main differences between a traditional wholesaler and a cooperative – PWADC can provide all the tools, but the retailers know their markets best and how to run their stores.
“If they want to put paper towels in the meat department, we aren’t going to walk into their store and stop them. That’s the retail side of things,” Baldone said. “We might have a hand in it all, but that decision, ultimately, stays with the retailer.”
As an example, many Piggly Wigglys – particularly those PWADC serves – have in-house butchers. The company’s various meat programs help retailers decide what to carry. The company’s extensive Certified Angus Beef program recognizes the desires of independents and customers for fresh meat prepared in-store, according to Hamilton.
“Butchers are something that is synonymous with Piggly Wiggly. Most of all of our retailers cut product in-house, fresh daily,” he said.
Hamilton also said CAB program is the company’s mainstay.
“We offer it to all our customers. It’s something that they can use as a branding tool as long as they go through the Certified Angus Beef class,” he said. “Then we’ll help them to use it as an advertising tool.”
In addition, the wholesaler offers a case-ready program that is mostly used by members as a backup, Hamilton said. It is particularly popular with those that don’t have access to an in-house butcher.
For more information, visit pwadc.net.
To read more news from Piggly Wiggly by The Shelby Report, click here.