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Central Grocers Announces 60,000 Square Foot Expansion

Central Grocers, Inc, the members-owned grocery cooperative based in Joliet, Illinois has announced a 60,000 square foot freezer expansion to their distribution facility which opened in 2009. Construction is now underway with a readiness date targeted for January 1, 2013.

The expansion represents a 75% increase in capacity and will significantly expand Central Grocer’s frozen food, ice cream, and fresh meat capabilities. Central Grocers CEO Jim Denges said the project will add 2,000 new pick slots and an additional 8,000 reserve slots. “This undertaking will enhance our ability to serve our members with not only a broader product line, but should improve our overall operations capability and efficiency in the frozen food space.” The distribution center in Joliet’s Cherry Hill Industrial Park will provide more than one million square feet of space to the over 400 retail stores it serves. “Since we opened the new facility about four years ago we have always anticipated this expansion,” said Denges. “Now is the right time to make this happen.” He indicated that the additional freezer space will also house the cooperative’s frozen turkey supplies.

The new space will bring the total area set aside for frozen and fresh meat products to approximately 140,000 square feet. “There is a great deal going on in our industry with frozen products like meat, bakery products, and ice cream,” said Denges. The frozen foods segment has seen some rise and fall in sales in recent years as customers moved to fresh meals, but the market has responded with new products to meet consumer demand.

Depending upon the categorization of products, annual frozen foods sales are estimated to be $70 – $90 billion per year in the United States. With 40 feet of vertical clearance, the Central Grocers distribution facility houses products for members ranging from small independent grocers to regional chains such as Strack & Van Til and Ultra Foods. Member stores are located primarily in northern Illinois and northwest Indiana, with additional stores in Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin.

“We’re also pleased to be bringing some new construction jobs to the area with this project,” Denges said. There was no immediate projection of the number of permanent jobs that might be added to the more than 600 permanent workers currently employed by Central Grocers.

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