Food brand Cadia plants a flag in the heart of the mecca of the organic industry Boulder

When Naperville, Ill.-based food company KeHE Distributors LLC bought organic brand Cadia about a decade ago, company executives looked west for a place where to maintain and develop their new asset.

KeHE Executive Director of Brands Ben Friedland. (Courtesy of KeHE)

“About eight or nine years ago, KeHE said that we wanted to be more closely connected to the health food community and the epicenter of the health food industry,” said KeHe’s Executive Director of Brands, Ben Friedland at BizWest.

That epicenter, of course, is Boulder.

The company launched a satellite office near 38th Street and Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder to serve as the de facto corporate headquarters for the Cadia brand.

This year, KeHE and Cadia “doubled down on our commitment to our presence in the Boulder community by relocating and opening a new innovation and growth center” off 14th Street and Canyon Boulevard, Friedland said.

That the new office is a stone’s throw from the Boulder Farmers’ Market, perhaps the super-epicenter for natural foods within Boulder’s broader epicenter for industry, is not lost on Cadia executives. .

“KeHE is focusing all of its growth and innovation initiatives out of this Boulder office,” Friedland said.

The Cadia brand, which differentiates itself from other suppliers of natural and organic foods and products by catering exclusively to independent retailers, operates out of the 10,000-square-foot Boulder center, which is approximately four times larger than the company’s former local operation.

“With that (the addition of square footage), comes an investment in more people for that space,” Friedland said.

The Boulder operation has approximately 15 employees in a variety of supply, operations, logistics, sales and marketing roles.

“I don’t want to go so far as to say that the epicenter of the business is changing,” Friedland said, “but there’s a lot of inertia, a lot of energy going to Boulder.”

In fact, a handful of senior KeHE executives have moved from Illinois to Colorado in recent years, he said. Remote workers and Illinois-based employees support the Boulder team.

“We’re a health food and specialty products company, and we’re committed to that by hiring more bodies here (in Boulder), creating a bigger space here, and connecting with the local community,” Friedland said. .

Cadia offers more than 600 products, from coconut water to canned beans to toilet paper.

These products are only offered at small grocery stores such as Niwot Market, not the big players like King Soopers or Whole Foods Market.

“There’s an altruism in that,” Friedland said, “but there’s definitely a business case as well.”

Independent retailers “are essential to the fabric of a community,” he said.

Local grocery stores “are these amazing, culturally rich epicentres that people want to support,” Friedland said, but “retailers need to be able to offer their customers high-quality, high-margin, low-priced products.” .

Too often, local operations that focus on natural and organic offerings cost too much for many buyers in the communities they are meant to serve, he said. Customers who shop locally may buy only certain items from their neighborhood retailer, making additional trips to chain stores for basic goods. Cadia aims to fill the void and allow freelancers to remain one-stop-shops for customers.

“It’s not feasible for a small independent retailer that has one, two or three locations to produce their own private label products,” Friedland said. “As a result, they are competing with larger retailers who have a private label.”

Cadia aggregates orders from independent retailers across the country to replicate the economies of scale that are often the exclusive domain of large operators.

“We can produce Cadia (food offerings) on behalf of the aggregate,” Friedland said. “…Now that same person who wants to support (local grocers) is buying a bigger basket. They don’t have to (make an extra stop) at this big retailer to get black beans at a lower price. »

Margin comparisons to private label offered at larger chains differ by individual product. “We won’t always be the cheapest,” Friedland said. “But we’re getting much closer, and in some areas, we’re at or below (the margins and prices offered by) those big retailers.”

The availability of high-quality private label products is especially important for retailers in areas such as Boulder County, where shoppers tend to “purchase mostly organic and are very knowledgeable about natural foods,” Alison said. Steele, co-owner of Niwot Market, at BizWest.

“We’re small – we can’t buy like Whole Foods, we can’t buy 25 cases of (branded product) at once and sell them for less.”

With Cadia, Niwot Market can buy smaller quantities of private label organic products that are “very similar” to branded offerings from high-end grocery chains, sell them at a competitive price while maintaining reasonable margins, a said Steele.

Maintaining margins is more critical than ever for smaller operators battling high inflation and a supply chain crisis that is making wholesale products more expensive and harder to find. Combine that with the ultra-tight job market, and local grocers need to save pennies wherever they can.

“Right now we’re doing great,” Steele said. “But it’s still scary with the way the world is changing. Food (prices are) going up. Everything is going up.”

This article was first published by BizWest, an independent news agency, and is published under a license agreement. © 2022 BizWestMedia LLC.

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