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Tree of Life’s Netherlands-based parent company, Royal Wessanen nv, has agreed to sell its natural and specialty food distribution businesses in North America, including Tree of Life U.S. and Tree of Life Canada, to Romeoville, Ill.-based Kehe Food Distributors, Inc. The deal is expected to close early next year.
Wessanen revealed earlier this year that it was considering the divestment of its North American businesses to realign its business portfolio and concentrate future business development on its core European companies. Wessanen acquired Tree of Life in December 1985 as its entry into the burgeoning U.S. natural and organic food market, providing the financial backing that eventually enabled Tree of Life to become the first nationwide distributor of natural and organic products to natural food stores and supermarkets.
Tree of Life officials are upbeat about the company’s new ownership. “This is a good fit for Tree of Life,” noted president and CEO Richard Lane. “Kehe has been a longtime distributor of natural and specialty foods, and their commitment to excellence mirrors our own.”
“This is a partnership that benefits both of our companies,” added Troy Benscoter, Tree of Life’s SVP of supermarket sales. “Together we will continue to improve the services that we provide to our retail customers and suppliers.”
According to Greg Leonard, SVP of natural food sales: “Kehe … wants to see their business in [natural food stores] grow significantly in the coming years. Given that there are unmet retailer needs in the marketplace, the new company has tremendous opportunities for growth.”
Additionally, Kehe’s purchase of Tree of Life Canada allows it to have a presence in that crucial market for the first time.
St. Augustine, Fla.-based Tree of Life is a major marketer and distributor of natural, organic, gourmet, specialty, and multicultural food products to supermarket chains, independent grocers, natural/health food stores, and specialty/ethnic stores throughout the United States and Canada.