A group eight of the nation’s largest, and most successful, wholesalers gathered recently at the Retailer Owned Food Distributors Association’s (ROFDA) Fall Conference to share ideas and collaborate on how to battle larger regional and national grocery competition.

Representing AFS were Roger White (sitting in for David Rice), Wade Judd (IT Committee) and David Panter/Jason Sokol (Category Management/Advertising/Marketing). AFS board members Mark Ridley and Jon Badger also attended the conference.

ROFDA is a cooperative formed between eight of the country’s wholesalers, including Associated Grocers New England (AGNE), Affiliated Foods (Amarillo), Piggly Wiggly, Associated Wholesale Grocers (AWG), Associated Food Stores (AFS), URM (formerly United Retail Merchants), Certo. The coop’s board consists of the CEOs/Presidents from each of the wholesalers.

ROFDA was formed to help build unity and collaboration between the wholesalers. Besides the ROFDA Board meeting regularly, there are share groups made up of team members from each of the wholesalers who meet throughout the year to discuss major trends and pain points, as well as look for opportunities to grow together.

The IT Committee met to discuss current trends they are seeing. A main point of discussions focused on the level of demands and integrations occurring at the wholesale level. The group discussed the importance of defining clear objectives and how IT projects must be resourced properly, as well as how project management and prioritization play into their work.

“Technology is at the heart of almost everything that is happening at wholesale and retail today,” said Wade. “It is more important than ever that collaboration and project management are front and center with all IT-related projects going forward.”

David Panter and Jason Sokol were asked about 5-6 months ago to lead an effort to better understand and look for aggregation opportunities between the wholesalers that will allow ROFDA wholesalers, including AFS, to gain better scale and drive more relevance with consumer-packaged goods (CPG) partners.

Their committee, now called the RMN Committee, made several recommendations to the ROFDA board, including the potential for a centralized digital coupon effort; shared retailer education resources for digital marketing, retail media networks to drive more effective advertising efforts; as well as an opportunity to build a ROFDA-level RMN aggregation effort.

“It was eye opening to see how receptive the ROFDA wholesalers were to working together and it is exciting to think about what is possible,” said David Panter.

In addition to the share groups, the conference included time for the ROFDA board/CEOs to discuss current issues and visit the many CPG, technology and solutions providers that support ROFDA.

“The conference was a big success,” said Roger. “I was very impressed to watch the two committees work so effectively together. Also, it was a valuable experience for me personally to hear about some of the most pressing issues our sister wholesalers are facing and how we might learn from one another to better fight for independent retailers across the country.”