Fort Worth-based food and beverage distribution giant Ben E. Keith Co. will be honored with the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Spirit of Enterprise Award at the Chamber’s 137th Annual Meeting luncheon, presented by Frost April 17 at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel, President and CEO Bill Thornton announced April 8.
The Spirit of Enterprise Award, the Chamber’s highest honor, recognizes a local organization that has demonstrated a true commitment to business growth and community development. The award is sponsored by BNSF Railway.
“Ben E. Keith has always been focused on excellence with entrepreneurial genius,” Thornton said. “That’s what has propelled this historic Fort Worth company from its origins as a fledgling produce business to its stature today as one of the largest broad line food service and beverage distributors in the United States.”
“For more than a century, Ben E. Keith proudly has called Fort Worth home,” said John H. Hallam, CEO, Ben E. Keith. “As we have grown our beverage division to serve more than 60 counties across Texas and our food division to 15 states, we have stayed true to our Texan roots and the values instilled upon us by our founders here in Fort Worth in 1906.
“On behalf of all the Ben E. Keith employees, especially the 600+ living and working here in Tarrant County, we thank you for the honor. We will continue to give back to this community, support the growth and success of our customers, and promote the economic development and prosperity of the region for years to come.”
With around 4,600 employees and 600 sales associates company-wide, Ben E. Keith is the largest privately-owned company in Fort Worth and one of the largest and oldest in this region, earning close to $4 billion in 2017.
Ongoing growth-related facilities expansions and new construction, all LEED certified to meet Ben E. Keith standards, will include the addition of a $22 million, 185,000-square-foot project at Ben E. Keith’s south Fort Worth campus. The initiative is expected to create 283 jobs by 2025.
The colossal Food and Beverage divisions operate in a 15-state service area extending from Nebraska south throughout the entire state of Texas, and from New Mexico and Colorado east to Florida. Sales and distribution locations are in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Alabama.
Ben E. Keith has been a familiar name for decades in North Texas as a distributor of produce and Anheuser-Bush products, a relationship that began in 1928 when Keith met with Adolphus Busch, founder of Busch Beers, and became an independent distributor for the brewer.
Today, the company’s Food and Beverage divisions sell a vast universe of food, premium beverages, equipment, supplies and much more to customers that range from neighborhood eateries and white tablecloth restaurants to high-profile national and regional restaurant chains and institutions such as schools and hospitals, with more that 94 million cases shipped annually.
The company owns two manufacturing facilities – Dallas-based Winn Meat Company and Kelley’s Foods of Alabama – which accelerates the ordering and delivery processes, making it possible for customers, such as restaurants, to receive next-day shipments “Fresh From Keith’s,” as the slogan goes – a line created in 1941 by Keith’s assistant, Trula House.
To read about how Ben E. Keith was key to the development of Fort Worth: