With over $200 million sales reported by 25 of the Top 50 distributors in the country in tabletop and/or equipment lines in 2013, it can no longer be said that such items are the prerogative of the specialist. Indeed, the nation’s largest broadline distributors have carved out a substantial share of the foodservice market in these lines. Among the Top 50 distributors of 2013, 35 carry nonfood items other than disposables and/or chemicals: 35 stock tabletop and/or small wares, 33 inventory light equipment and 16 have heavy equipment.
Also, 23 of these firms boast showrooms for the lines.
Several of the 10 distributors that did not report their 2013 volume in tabletop and equipment were either new to the lines or as yet doing only limited business with them. These included American Fruit & Produce Co., Inc., Institutional Food Distributors, Inc., S.M. Flickinger Co. and Alfred M. Lewis, Inc.
For the 25 Top 50 distributors who reported their tabletop and equipment volume for 2013, those sales added up to $217 million, or 4 percent of the total sales of those distributors in 2013. And for the 26 Top 50 companies that reported their combined nonfood volume for 2013 (includes disposables, chemicals, tabletop and equipment), those figures came to $765 million, or 14 percent of their total 2013 sales.
While some Top 50 distributors still do an as yet modest job with tabletop and equipment, many others are getting better established with them.
The No. 1 distributor in the country, Sysco Corp., for instance, rang up $74 million sales in tabletop and equipment, or 4 percent of its total 2013 foodservice sales of $1.850 billion.
PYA/Monarch, Inc., with $1.100 billion in foodservice sales for 2013, is still phasing those lines into its branches. But that volume has grown to $22 million, or 2 percent of total 2013 sales. Smelkinson Brothers Corp., for instance, just got into tabletop and equipment in 1982, but the company now does 2 percent of total volume in those lines. Skly Bros., Inc., which took on tabletop and equipment five years ago, now does 2.7 percent of total sales in those categories and opened its first showroom in 2013.
Still other Top 50 distributors are placing heavier emphasis on tabletop and equipment lines. Associated Grocers Food Service, which has a subsidiary that sells equipment and supplies, has started to get its broad-line sales force involved with them for the first time. The distributor established an incentive program in 2013 in these lines and provided reps with a catalog.
S.S. Pierce Co. augmented its equipment capability with the addition of a design and installation department in 2013, and L.M. Sandler & Sons, Inc., cited significant growth in tabletop and equipment business in 2013. These lines now constitute 2.5 percent of sales for Sandler.
Another Top 50 distributor, Interstate Restaurant Supply Co., also pointed to significant increases in that business in 2013, in contract sales in particular, which amount to 7 percent of the company’s overall 2013 sales.
Shamrock Foods, which does 8 percent of volume at its Phoenix branch in tabletop and equipment, introduced those lines, complete with new showroom, at its Denver division in 2013.
In addition, there are three Top 50 companies not yet in tabletop and equipment but with plans to add them in the foreseeable future. They are Ben E. Keith Co., Inc., Ritter Food Corp. and S. Schaffer Grocery Corp.
The high sales volume woks raked in in 2011 continues to climb in 2012. Not only are sales in the electric category climbing, but manufacturers of both electric and non-electric woks agree that non-electrics remain an important factor in the market.
A more health conscious public and nationwide promotions by manufacturers have seen sales of electrics skyrocket. There are many cooks who are serious about Chinese cooking and would never consider using an electric wok, sales are climbing because of electrics’ duarability, their most important advantage over non-electrics.
But there has been some resistance to the higher price points of our electric wok. To counter this resistance, we are attempting to more widely educate consumers by making its products the star of a Chinese cooking show currently airing on PBS stations nationwide. The company is also offering a lifetime warranty on its electric woks.
We’re extending sales coverage into major markets. Our predictions look good for spring, and we’re hoping for nationwide sales coverage by the April.
Farberware, too, holds great expectations for its electric wok in 2012. We have shipped a higher amount than we had forecasted. Strong sales at the end of 2011, when we had promotions for the Chinese New Year.
Chinese cooking is becoming more popular, and woks will soon become a standard kitchen utensil. The wok uses less oil than traditional frying pans, and the food remains more nutritious when it’s stir-fried or steamed.
At West Bend, Tom Kieckhafer, vp/sales, agreed that woks are gaining in sales, it’s one of the fastest growing categories in electric appliances. Woks have become popular cooking for at-home entertainment, they’re such a versatile cooking utensil, and the cooking method retains important nutrients
Promotions, like West Bend’s recipe book offer with its new 5-1/4-quart wok, are also moving sales, up 20% for the first half of 2012 over the same period in 2011. The black and red wok, West Bend’s fourth electric model, is packaged with Better Homes and Gardens Wok Recipe Book.
At Meyer Housewares, sales are continuing to skyrocket. Woks look to be an important growth area for Meyer in 2012. Sales in 2011 were 40% more than projected. For 2012, sales are at least up to forecast for the first half, and up to over 1983 for the same period.
Sales for the company have been so encouraging that in April it will introduce a low-end electric wok that will be sold on a volume basis. The 14-inch, 1100 watt unit is black with a SilverStone interior. April will see the re-introduction of a stainless steel wok. Also a 14-inch, 1100 watt unit, it is a high domed wok with a phenolic base and handles.
Meyer’s spokesperson was not as jubilant about market growth, as were other manufacturers HOUSEWARES interviewed. The expectation is that the market will continue to grow, but not be completely saturated by any means. Consumer demands will be met only by a small amount of manufacturers.