Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Ben E. Keith

The Ben E. Keith Company is an American distributor of food and beverage products founded in 1906. The company was originally named the Harkrider-Keith-Cooke Company but adopted its current name in 1931. Ben E. Keith (BEK) is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas and is the largest private company in Dallas-Fort Worth. Ben E. Keith is a distributor of food service throughout the United States, and also distributes Anheuser-Busch products in the state of Texas. The company distributes through its two operating divisions.


The Food Division supplies a full line of produce, frozen foods, meats, dry groceries, refrigerated foods, paper goods, equipment and supplies to restaurants, hospitals, schools, nursing homes and other institutional businesses. The Beverage Division sells Budweiser, Bud Light, Bud Ice, Michelob Ultra, Busch, Natural Light, and other Anheuser-Busch products. Other beverage products include energy drinks, craft and import beer brands, spirits, and wine.


Following a large donation to Texas Tech University, a newly discovered species of bat was named after the company’s founder, Ben E. Keith—Benkeith’s short-tailed bat (Carollia benkeithi).


   Ben E. Keith’s origins date back to 1906 when Ben E. Keith was the first salesman and junior partner of Harkrider-Morrison, a produce company in Fort Worth, Texas. Orders were written on tablets and delivered by horse and buggy.

   In 1911, one of the partners, R.E. Morrison withdrew from the company, and the name was changed to Harkrider-Keith-Cooke Company.

   In 1917, another of the partners, W. Steve Cooke, withdrew from the company to become a co-founder in a Dodge dealership in Fort Worth.

   In 1918, C. E. Harkrider also withdrew from the company.

   In 1918, Ben E. Keith became President and General Manager of Harkrider-Keith-Cooke Company.

   In 1928, to solve the problem of slower sales in the summer season due to people growing their own gardens, Ben E. Keith met with Adolphus Busch, founder of Busch Beers, and from this meeting the company became an independent distributor of Anheuser-Busch products.

   In 1931, Harkrider-Keith-Cooke formally changed its name to Ben E. Keith Company.

   In 1941, the FRESH FROM KEITH’S slogan was created by Mr. Keith’s assistant, Ms. Trula House. The slogan was posted on everything from Ben E. Keith trucks to store posters to packages of produce.

   In 1980, Ben E. Keith Foods began to reinvent itself, transitioning from predominately a produce company into broadline food distribution.

   In 1985, the company acquired Monroe Frozen Foods in Shreveport, Louisiana and CMD Produce in Little Rock, Arkansas.

   In 1987, the Mid-South Seafood in Little Rock, Arkansas was acquired

   In 1990, the Kassner Distributing in San Antonio, Texas was acquired.

   In 1991, the ABC Distributing in Albuquerque, New Mexico was acquired.

   In 2005, the F & E Foodservice of Wichita, Kansas was acquired.

   In 2010, Ben E. Keith Foods increased picking accuracy and productivity with Motorola Solutions and the Motorola WT4090 and Selector Pro software.

   In 2016, Kelley Foods of Alabama was acquired.

   In 2019, the company acquired Dallas-based Artisanal Beverage Distributor assets, adding over 100 products to its growing line-up of spirits.

   With more than 6,000 employees, the Ben E. Keith Company is considered one of the Largest Public Companies in the World.

*Information from Forbes.com, Wikipedia.org, and www.benekeith.com.

**Video published on YouTube by “Ben E. Keith Foods

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