Frontenac Forms Navis Food

Frontenac Forms Navis Food

The new platform builds off of Frontenac's August 2023 buy of City Line Distributors

City Line is a Connecticut-based specialty food distributor serving restaurants, hotels, schools, colleges, and healthcare facilities in Southern New England and Eastern New York.

SOURCE: Getty Images

Frontenac has formed Navis Food Partners as a new holding company to consolidate its investments in the independent foodservice distribution industry.

Boston-headquartered Navis Food, through Frontenac, made its first acquisition in August 2023 with the buy of City Line Distributors, a third-generation, family-owned specialty distributor headquartered in West Haven, Connecticut. The business operates in thirty counties across New England – serving Southern New England and Eastern New York – and provides food and food related items to restaurants, hotels, schools, colleges, and healthcare facilities.

According to Frontenac, City Line is the largest single facility food distributor in New England, the fourth largest in the United States, and the 26th largest in the UniPro Buying Group, one of the largest foodservice distribution cooperatives in the United States.

City Line’s products include fresh produce, dairy products, frozen foods, deli meats and cheeses, dry groceries, beverages, baked goods, and seafood.

Source: Getty Images

Partnering with Frontenac on Navis Food is food distribution industry veteran Sean Griffin, now executive chairman of Navis Food, and City Line CEO Robert Berkowitz, now the CEO of Navis Food. On a combined basis, Mr. Berkowitz and Mr. Griffin have more than 80 years of operating experience leading foodservice companies in the Northeast marketplace.

“We are thrilled to announce the formation of Navis Food as the next stage of our partnership with the team at Frontenac,” said Mr. Berkowitz. “Our vision is to create a best-in-class foodservice distribution platform that delivers exceptional service and value to our independent restaurant operators throughout the Northeast. Our belief is that the independent operators in the region need a distribution relationship with companies that share their values – service, speed to action and value – and we believe with City Line as our foundation, and with Frontenac as our partner, we are well positioned to earn that relationship.”

As part of its acquisition strategy, Navis Food will look to acquire complementary companies that can expand the platform both geographically and across categories. “Navis Food aims to build a comprehensive distribution network of companies that meet the evolving needs of their customers while delivering operational excellence and superior customer service,” said Mr. Griffin. “The Northeast marketplace is renowned for its robust independent food venues and it’s time for these operators to have greater choice of distribution partners who can meet both their service and value needs.”

“We are excited to launch this next stage of our partnership with industry veterans Robert Berkowitz and Sean Griffin on this transformative journey,” said Betsy Williamson, a managing director at Frontenac. “Navis Food’s commitment to innovation, customer service, and operational excellence aligns closely with Frontenac’s investment ethos. Together we aspire to drive growth and build a leading platform in the Northeast foodservice distribution market.”

Joining Mr. Berkowitz and Mr. Griffin on the board of Navis Food are Paul Green and Steve Humphreys. Mr. Green is the retired chief supply chain officer of UNFI (United Natural Foods), a Rhode Island–based natural and organic food company and the largest publicly traded wholesale distributor of health and specialty food in the United States and Canada. Mr. Humphreys is the retired West Region President of US Foodservice, a Chicago-headquartered food service distributor with annual revenues of more than $35 billion. US Foods was the 10th largest private company in the United States until its IPO in 2016.

Frontenac invests in lower middle-market businesses that have EBITDA from $5 million to $20 million and operate in the consumer, industrial, and services industries. In March 2022, Frontenac closed its twelfth fund, Frontenac XII Private Capital LP, with $520 million of capital. The firm was founded in 1971 and is headquartered in Chicago.

© 2024 Private Equity Professional | March 12, 2024

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