Bay Food Brokerage has served as Ithaca Hummus’s Southeast food broker since 2017. During that time, we’re proud to have played a role in getting their product into Publix, Earth Fare, Harris Teeter and Ingels stores in the Southeast.
And, we’re especially grateful to Ithaca Founder Chris Kirby for sharing his perspective on our partnership in this blog post.
About Ithaca Hummus
Chris Kirby established Ithaca, New York-based Ithaca Hummus in 2013. Its original lemon garlic hummus debuted at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market that year. Today, the company is the fastest-growing hummus brand in the country.
“We’re the leading premium hummus brand in America,” Chris sad. “We differentiate our hummus with fresh-as-possible ingredients – like real lemon juice – to create the intense flavor experience that our fans have come to love.”
Ithaca currently offers seven varieties of hummus that are sold in major retailers throughout the U.S.
The Opportunity: Southeast Expansion
“We weren’t in the market for a Southeast food broker,” Chris said. “We’re a very entrepreneurial company and have a very do-it-yourself ethos. Our plan was to have our account managers build relationships with the category managers at the Southeast retailers. That approach had worked for us in the past, in other parts of the country.”
However, Chris’s thinking changed after he met the Bay Food Brokerage team at the IDDBA (International Dairy Deli Bakery Association) conference in 2017.
“At the IDDBA show, Cammie and her team were in full force, scouting the showroom floor,” Chris said. “They came by our booth, tasted our product, and we really hit it off.”
Ithaca Hummus stood out to the Bay Food team because of its clean label, fresh ingredients, high-pressure processing and effective packaging. While most other hummus products are sold in round packaging, Ithaca’s is square. The smaller footprint means more items can fit on a shelf, which is attractive to retailers. As a Southeast food broker, Bay Food knew Ithaca was special.
“We just felt very confident that consumers and retailers in the Southeast would love this product for so many reasons,” said Cammie Chatterton, Bay Food’s President and CEO.
Even though Chris wasn’t looking for a Southeast food broker, one found him.
“Thanks to having a great relationship with our broker in the Northeast, we knew what a value-added broker looked like,” Chris said. “Bay Food Brokerage is a regional powerhouse broker.”
Six weeks after IDDBA, Chris and the Bay Food team were presenting Ithaca Hummus to Publix’s category manager.
The Results: Ithaca in Publix, Earth Fare, Harris Teeter and Ingles
Within three months of meeting the Bay Food Brokerage team, Ithaca Hummus was shipping its first order to Publix’s 1,200+ stores.
“Timing was in our favor with the category review process. But, still, it’s very rare for a small, emerging brand to come into Publix and get overnight chainwide distribution like that,” Chris said. “Our team certainly played a role. But I don’t think it would’ve happened without the help and credibility that Bay Food Brokerage brought right away.”
Ithaca Hummus launched with four varieties in Publix and now has seven nationwide.
But Bay Food Brokerage is not just a Publix broker. We’re a Southeast food broker that represents our clients with all major retailers in the region. So, shortly after launching Ithaca in Publix, our team also helped secure distribution in Earth Fare. Earth Fare has approximately 20 stores in eight states.
And, in recent months, our team has also helped Ithaca get into Harris Teeter and Ingles, which totals another 450 stores.
Beyond simply serving as a Southeast food broker to get Ithaca’s products into stores, Bay Food also supports Ithaca with in-store support and special projects. Chris said the team’s expertise, relationships with retailers and “boots on the ground” have brought value to Ithaca many times.
“For example, Bay Food introduced us to Publix’s inner-mail system,” Chris said. “We had signs we wanted up in all of the stores. Inner-mail allowed us to send them all to Publix headquarters. And then they sent them to all their stores. If we hadn’t known about that, we would have sent a sign to every store, which would have wasted time and money.”
To continue that example, the Bay Food retail representatives also made sure that the signs made it to every store and that the retailers had displayed them correctly.
“We relied heavily on the Bay Food team to verify signs were up and to take pictures where they weren’t,” Chris said. “That’s the extra level of service they provide and that we want associated with our brand.”
The Experience: Valuing Relationships
Chris recognized that relationships are a key component of keeping the entire process humming.
“It starts with people, and with leadership,” Chris said. “Cammie and her team understand what the retailer is looking for and then prospects according to the retailers’ needs. They also have the depth and quality of relationships with retailers that foster a productive experience for everyone.”
Chris also expressed admiration for Bay Food’s leader, Cammie Chatterton.
“It’s so inspiring to think about what Cammie has done in a business she started 30 years ago in a male-dominated industry,” he said. “She’s really a source of inspiration for our team and a powerful force for change that we admire and look up to.”
Fifty percent of Ithaca’s staff are female.
“We love our relationship with Bay Food,” Chris offered, in closing. “I think there’s great top-to-top alignment across our two businesses that allows us to trust each other. And that creates an incredible amount of value.”
Looking for a Southeast food broker? Contact us today to learn how we can help your brand grow.