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Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc. (AWG) is the United States's largest cooperative food wholesaler to independently owned supermarkets, grocery serving more than 3,500 locations in 35 states and from 9 full-line wholesale divisions. The consolidated run-rate sale for AWG is $10 billion. In addition to its cooperative wholesale operations, the company also operates subsidiary companies which provide certain real estate and supermarket development services, retail accounting, digital marketing services, military commissary supply, and is a wholesale supply provider of health and beauty care, general merchandise, specialty/international foods and pharmaceutical supply. It was founded in 1924 as Associated Grocers of Kansas City and is based in Kansas City, Kansas. Associated Wholesale Grocers distributes four private-label brands of grocery products, Best Choice, Clearly Organic, Always Save, and Superior Selections along with IGA.
AWG's history dates back to 1924 when a group of 20 independent grocers met for the first time to discuss the advantages of combining their buying and advertising power. Competition was fierce in those days with national chains dominating the grocery scene. Independents struggled to compete, and a cooperative effort was viewed as the only way in which to gain market strength. For two years, the group bought collectively and stored their wares in the back of a store owned by J.C. Harline at 39th and Troost in Kansas City, Missouri.
The cooperative was a success, so in March, 1926, Articles of Incorporation were filed and Associated Grocers of Kansas City (AG) formally began. The company's first official warehouse was located in the second floor of the Morehead Grocery Company, at 3842 Troost.
In 1953, the company name was changed to Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc., (AWG) and the following year, AWG paid its first year-end patronage of $20,441 to members. Prior to 1954, members had received dividends on their stock, usually from $3-$6 per share. The rebate was definitely a better deal.
By the end of the 1960s, AWG had two new warehouses. In Springfield, a 300,000 square foot facility was built to replace the one destroyed by fire in 1970, and in Kansas City the long-awaited 565,000 square foot office and warehouse complex was ready for occupancy in 1972.
In the late 1980s, AWG growth continued through acquisitions. AWG members bought 40 Food Barn stores and 29 Homeland stores, and the former Homeland warehouse in Oklahoma City became AWG's third division. Valu Merchandisers, AWG's wholly owned subsidiary supplying health and beauty care products and general merchandise, came on line offering a selection of more than 12,000 items from its 219,000 square foot facility in Fort Scott, Kansas.
This growth was dynamic in the late 90s- early 00s and came from a combination of three things: new members, acquisition of new distribution centers, and an increase in store sales from existing members.
In 2003, AWG expanded into the southeastern United States with the acquisition of two grocery distribution centers: a 737,000 square foot facility in Goodlettsville, Tennessee and a 675,000 square foot warehouse in Southaven, Mississippi. The 2003 acquisition also included a distribution center in Memphis, Tennessee now operated by AWG's Valu Merchandisers (VMC) subsidiary. VMC supplies general merchandise and specialty foods to its customers from their Memphis facility and healthy and beauty care products from its Fort Scott, Kansas warehouse.
In 2007, AWG acquired a distribution center in Fort Worth, Texas. This facility serves members in Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana. Also in 2007, AWG built a brand new, state-of-the-art distribution center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Having outgrown the previous warehouse, AWG built this 800,000 square foot facility to better serve its members in Oklahoma, northern Texas, and southern Kansas.
In 2011, AWG broke ground on a division in Pearl River, Louisiana. This Gulf Coast Division was built to provide great accessibility and low cost delivery of groceries to independent retailers in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
In 2012, AWG completed a 30,000 square foot expansion of its headquarters in Kansas City, KS. The newly expanded complex houses over one-thousand employees, including the AWG corporate office and the Kansas City distribution center, as well as 100 employees from the Valu Merchandisers subsidiary formerly located in Kansas City, Missouri. AWG's Gulf Coast division, located in Pearl River, Louisiana, began shipping product on January 20, 2013.
In 2016, AWG celebrated its 90th Anniversary and reached an agreement to acquire Affiliated Foods Midwest (AFM). AFM, a like-minded retailer-owned cooperative, supplied members that operated more than 800 stores in 15 states.