Eat Well Distribution boosts Columbus artisan food producers

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO
Simple Squares snack bar

Jeni's success has been a boon for the small farms and artisan food producers among the company's 45 ingredients suppliers. Founding Eat Well Distribution was a natural extension of Jeni's economic impact on local food producing businesses.

"John had this idea that we're going to start buying sugar directly and we're going to become a distributor," says Britton Bauer. Buying in larger bulk quantities than their production called for put Jeni's in a position to sell the excess raw ingredients back to other local food producers.

The Eat Well business plan grew from there. Founded in 2012, Eat Well currently has a staff of 33 and operates in 15-soon to be 18-states.

Eat Well utilizes Jeni's independent distribution channels to put other artisan products on store shelves. In addition, Eat Well offers branding and packaging-design services and, most importantly, a product-sampling program for new-to-market foods.

"As we created this wholesale business, we had to get very good at telling our story, marketing the product and fulfilling, packing up frozen food and getting it to retailers across the country. We had developed some expertise," says Lowe.

Lowe and Britton Bauer wanted to boost the probabilty of success for other artisan food businesses trying to break into closed wholesale distribution channels. Eat Well tailors its fee structure around the specific services each business client needs. The company comes with the added benefit of lowering Jeni's costs.

Jeni's and Eat Well exemplify the strong middle-market manufacturing base in central Ohio; both are hitting their stride in midst of a revolution in the food business, says Kenny McDonald, chief economic officer of Columbus 2020, the region's economic development agency.

"There's something in the water here about (having) the know-how to take a single store and make it a multi-channel enterprise or franchise," says McDonald, citing other Columbus-based food companies like White Castle, Wendy's and Brio Bravo.

Jeni's and Eat Well also capitalize on the logistical benefits of Columbus' central location--a major plus for artisan food distributors seeking quick routes to high discretionary spending markets in the Eastern U.S. and Canada.

Columbus 2020 sends pints of Jeni's to all of its clients, says McDonald. "We're very proud of what they represent and the growth they've had."

Jeni's support of other entrepreneurs through Eat Well echoes the support the ice creamery received from its home city. "I think that speaks to the kind of community we are," says McDonald. "We want to embrace those that are successful from our own soil and amplify their message around the country and around the world."