Joseph S. Colalillo has expansion on his mind.
Sources close to Wakefern Food Corp. told SN that the cooperative, headquartered in Keasbey, N.J., is poised for record growth certainly in New York state, but also in other parts of the Northeast.
“By the end of 2011, maybe sooner, Wakefern will be the No. 1 retailer in the Northeast, and the fastest-growing wholesaler,” one source predicted, arguing that, in terms of sales Wakefern could potentially hit $20 billion within five years — quite a jump from last year’s $12.5 billion.
Judicious real estate decisions and long-range planning helped fuel this potential. “The brilliance here is combining the strength of the co-op with listening to input from individual members,” the source added, largely crediting Colalillo, Wakefern’s chairman and chief executive officer. “He has continued the long-term strategy of his predecessor and mentor, Tom Infusino. That includes having a plan in place to deal with any competition anywhere.”
Colalillo’s legislative and advocacy work for the food industry has been lauded by his peers as well.
“Under Joe’s leadership, Wakefern has been among the industry’s greatest advocates on our most critical issues — including interchange fees, estate taxes and labor concerns — especially on behalf of independent operators and wholesalers,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, Food Marketing Institute president and CEO. “Joe himself has long been a stellar leader at FMI, serving as an officer and member of committees.”
Barbara McConnell, executive director of Food Industry Association of Executives, an umbrella association that covers state organizations and has retailers and manufacturers as members, said she’s never seen anyone who gives as much back to the community as Colalillo does. She also said that she sees him as a leader in many areas of the food industry.
As a member of the New Jersey Food Council, Colalillo recently urged several ShopRite store owners to join a council group that went to Washington to discuss food industry issues with legislators.
Indeed, council President Linda Doherty went so far as to say, “We are a strong state association because of the activism and commitment of Joe Colalillo.”
— Roseanne Harper