INDIANAPOLIS -- Marsh Supermarkets here has built its fresh food catering arm into the biggest operation in Indiana with the acquisition this month of a company specializing in corporate food service and fresh food vending.
Company officials and industry observers said Marsh's catering operation, ALLtimate/Crystal Catering, was already one of the leading players in central Indiana. With the purchase of Martz & Associates Food Services, based here, Marsh now has a food-service operation that should give it a competitive edge companywide, said chain executives.
"We look forward to enhanced customer service through combined synergy, talent and purchasing power," said Don E. Marsh, chairman and chief executive officer of the chain.
"By adding business cafeterias and vending to our grocery, convenience stores and catering business, we have the opportunity to service more customers by becoming a total food retailer and distributor," Marsh said.
"At the same time, we're pleased to broaden our catering business and add the successes of Carefree Catering to those of Crystal and ALLtimate Catering," he added. Carefree is the name of Martz' catering operation, picked up in this acquisition.
Synergies will hit Marsh supermarkets as soon as next month, when some products from the new acquisition should appear in deli departments, officials said.
The purchase, announced May 10 and initially reported in SN May 15, is just the latest block added to the chain's rapidly growing food-service business.
Just before the first of this year, Marsh added Crystal Enterprises
of Indiana to its then one-and-a-half-year-old ALLtimate Catering division. Crystal at the time was reported to be Indianapolis' largest catering company, with sales of more than $4 million annually. It had exclusive catering rights to the Indiana Roof Ballroom, where proms and major charity events are held.
That earlier deal had widened Marsh's catering scope, because until then the chain had primarily catered corporate events. That acquisition also gave it a strategic advantage, because Crystal operated kitchen facilities located in various parts of the city, a Marsh spokesman said.
Now with its latest acquisition, ALLtimate/Crystal Catering is arguably the largest catering company in the state, a Marsh spokesman confirmed. The chain declined, however, to provide exact volume figures for ALLtimate/ Crystal Catering, and would not comment when asked about expectations for sales volume given the Martz addition.
Martz is made up of three divisions: cafeteria management, vending and Carefree Catering. With sales of more than $8 million in 1994, the company operates cafeterias and dining facilities at several high-profile companies here, including the Indianapolis Water Co., Resort Condominiums International and Ameritech, the company that supplies telephone service in Indiana.
The $8 million in revenues includes all three divisions; officials at Marsh and Martz declined to break those sales figures down by division.
Martz' Carefree Catering serves clients such as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Deercreek Music Center. For now, all three parts of Martz & Associates Food Services will operate under their present Martz banners and will retain all their employees, a Martz spokesman said.
In its vending division, Martz prepares and packages more than 8,000 fresh food items daily, for about 150 vending machine sites. Some of those products will be introduced in the deli departments of selected Marsh units in June.
It has not been decided how the Martz name will be incorporated in the ALLtimate/Crystal Catering name, if at all. ALLtimate/Crystal Catering has continued to keep its identity associated with Marsh Supermarkets.
Observers said the Marsh move to expand its catering capabilities is in line with other chains' attempts to net hefty margins.
"Marsh's latest acquisition is part of the company's strategic plan to get into higher margin, service-oriented businesses so they don't have to go head-to-head on price with the likes of Meijer and Cub," said David Lebedeff, a stock analyst with Raffensperger, Hughes & Co., a brokerage firm here. He was referring to Meijer Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich., and Cub Foods, Stillwater, Minn., which have units in Marsh's market area.