Consolidated Dairies Inc.: All About Balance

Consolidated Dairies Inc. (CDI) dates back to 1923, when it operated as a direct-to-doorstep home milk delivery service, though the company didn’t officially incorporated until the 1970s. CDI represents a much larger variety of products today, including beverages and local value-added products, but the team’s commitment to each customer remains the same. Above all, CDI aims to form true partnerships with customers by providing total customer service support and an always-evolving inventory of tempting products.

“We consider ourselves to be something of a mini-broadliner,” expands Jordan Leitz, director of business development at CDI. “We have the capacity to represent major brands like Tropicana, but we’re also looking to represent local producers of standout specialty goods.” CDI maintains headquarters in Wallington, N.J., which allows the company to reach customers across New Jersey, all five boroughs of New York City and the counties of Westchester, Rockland and Orange County, N.Y. CDI employs a total of roughly 100 professionals, of which about 80 drivers and warehouse workers are union-affiliated. CDI also boasts a fleet of 45 trucks that travel approximately 5,000 miles or more on any given day.

CDI customers run the gamut of foodservice, retail grocery, wholesale distribution, national chain drugstores and privately owned supermarkets. CDI maintains the resources and flexibility to make deliveries just once a week or up to six days a week, with emergency same-day service when needed ensuring that a client’s shelves are never left empty. The warehouse operates a full six days of the week and 24 hours a day to ensure clients can get what they need, when they need it.

Branching Out

Fluid milk and cream still accounts for much of CDI’s focus as far as product lines go, but the company gradually expanded over the years to capitalize on its refrigerated storage and distribution assets. CDI today sells a full variety of beverages, juices, butter, eggs, milk, cheeses, meats and cultured products like Greek strained yogurt from Chobani. Other new additions include hummus from producers like Sonny and Joe’s, and citrus punch from Tampico, which provide a measure of security in the wake of volatile commodity prices.

“Milk markets have become increasingly volatile, especially as gas prices have gone up, so we’re working on maximizing the efficiency of our delivery routes,” adds Leitz. CDI began focusing on the efficiency of its delivery routes around 2009, and over the past three years the CDI team has invested heavily in tracking and refining its delivery routes to try and temper higher prices with greater efficiency.

At the same time, CDI formed new partnerships with local producers of gourmet products. In some cases CDI even lent the producers a hand to help secure a higher price. “We’ve sold fresh New Jersey tomatoes in the past, but the farmers are really struggling in recent years,” relates Leitz. “Eventually we found out about a packer here in New Jersey that only accepts Jersey tomatoes, so we arranged a packaging deal and helped secure the producer an extra $1 per every case of tomatoes. We partnered with the farmers and a local canner to make Jersey-only canned tomatoes. The farmers got an extra dollar for every case sold.”

New and Noteworthy

Similarly, the CDI team kept its eyes peeled for up-and-coming products with a healthy amount of momentum, but with a relatively limited market penetration. CDI’s search ultimately led the company to a local woman producing a line of gourmet tomato sauces as a private label co-packer for Whole Foods. By fall 2012 the products will be branded and available to CDI customers.

Other newcomers include a line of artisanal pickles from a company out of Brooklyn, N.Y., and high-end chopped beef and burgers from renowned producer Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors. The beef is guaranteed 100-percent Black Angus grade. CDI even underwent a certification process to learn about the product, and also did a tour to become an authorized dealer of Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors products. “We’re always on the lookout for tasty new products because, even though we sell to stores, the consumer is our ultimate customer,” asserts Leitz.

CDI looks to invest in the efficiencies that matter most to its client base. In the next few years, Leitz will work with CDI management to design and implement a totally self-serve ordering service on the company’s website. “The system will be designed for optimum mobile order placement with totally customizable order sheets so clients can place orders with us on-the-spot,” expands Leitz.

CDI works to broaden its customer base behind the scenes as well. In recent years the team has focused its efforts on establishing a foothold in niche markets, including the restaurant supply market and the country club market, among others. According to Leitz, the push is part of a two-step growth plan that will focus first on expanding its existing customer base with new products and then extending those services to new markets. The two-stage approach ensures a manageable growth rate so as not to jeopardize the long-standing client relationships CDI has cultivated over the course of its history.

Speaking of which, CDI will celebrate 90 years in business in 2013, and though no plans for a celebration have been firmly laid out, there is plenty to celebrate. The market is rife with opportunity and a host of up-and-coming local producers of high-end goods. As the team sees it, it is CDI’s duty to find the best possible market outlets for each. In doing so, the team at CDI solidifies long-standing relationships with each customer living up to Consolidated Dairies Inc.’s promise of providing unsurpassed customer service.