As part of an ongoing succession process, KeHE Distributors LLC has revealed that Deb Conklin will become the company’s president and CEO on April 1, 2023, while current President and CEO Brandon Barnholt will move into the role of executive chairman. During Barnholt’s 15 years at the helm, KeHE grew from a Midwest specialty distributor to the largest pure-play distributor of specialty, natural, organic and fresh products in North America, including the acquisitions of Tree of Life in 2009, Nature’s Best in 2014 and Monterrey Provision in 2016.
Conklin has served as a board member for KeHE’s employee-owned enterprise while being president and CEO of Dallas-based Reddy Ice, the largest manufacturer and distributor of packaged ice in the United States, with more than 80,000 retail customers.
“Deb is a perfect cultural fit and is uniquely qualified, with a solid combination of strong distribution and commercial experience in the food retail sector,” noted Barnholt. “She is a seasoned, talented executive with deep experience in the capital markets and a keen strategic mind. Beyond that, she is an enthusiastic, humble and focused leader with a bias for action.”
Conklin has a track record of driving operational improvement and customer service, and building important trade relationships. A Clemson University graduate, she earned her MBA from Queens University, in Charlotte, N.C.
“I want to thank the whole Reddy Ice team for being incredibly supportive, and I look forward to this amazing opportunity to serve the marketplace through the KeHE platform,” said Conklin. “The strength of KeHE’s customer portfolio and diverse supplier universe is very exciting for the future. KeHE is an important distribution and supply chain partner throughout the retail food sector, and I look forward to helping all parties grow and succeed.”
Naperville, Ill.-based KeHE provides natural and organic, specialty, and fresh products to more than 30,000 natural food stores, chain and independent grocery stores, e-commerce retailers and other specialty products retailers throughout North America. The Certified B Corporation has more than 6,800 employee-owners.