At first glance, Dot Foods might seem quite different from many companies at Cortex.
Dot Foods, founded in 1960, is the largest food redistribution company in the country. Boasting an annual revenue of about $7 billion, the company manages the supply chains of companies like Kellogg’s, Kraft and Nestle, and also small local companies like Arcobasso Foods, a St. Louis-based salad dressing manufacturer. In 2016, Forbes ranked it at number 65 on its list of America’s Largest Private Companies.
In the late 1990s, however, Dot Foods had a bit of a problem. The company found that its employees were spending an unnecessary amount of time taking phone calls from customers. The calls were painfully simple: Do you have this type of salad dressing? Do you have this pack size of Dannon yogurt?
The solution? Dot Foods put its catalogue online and created an ecommerce business called Dot Expressway. Recently, the company decided to expand the digital side of its business.
“With all the acceleration of ecommerce going on, we’ve really been paying attention,” said Kevin Baum, product manager at Dot Expressway. “Last year, the owners decided they needed to invest in the ecommerce side specifically so that we could maintain our leadership position in the marketplace.”
This decision led Dot Foods to secure a space at CET@CIC where Baum and a handful of new hires will work.
“We believe that the talent we want to add probably doesn’t want to work in a suburban or rural environment,” Baum said, noting that Dot Foods has a sales and marketing office in Chesterfield. “They instead want to work in an environment that’s diverse and energetic. So that’s probably our biggest driver for moving part of our team to the Cortex campus.”
Baum hopes being on the campus will allow for new kinds of collaboration.
“Just being in an environment where people are solving problems creatively, that could give us an opportunity to think differently, or in a new way about our traditional problems we’re trying to solve,” Baum said. “And we really need that. We’re a supply chain company first and foremost, we’re not a digital company. So being around people whose businesses have been built from the ground to be digital will be helpful to us in our transition. So there’s a networking-collaboration opportunity.”
Baum said younger companies in the community might also benefit from the wisdom of a successful and well-established company like Dot Foods – through “inspiration by osmosis.”
“There’s also an opportunity for us to raise our profile in the community,” Baum said. “People might begin to understand that there’s a $7 billion company based in St. Louis, and nobody knows who they are.”
Many of Dot Foods’ employees are from St. Louis. And though the company has a Chesterfield location, Baum said the location at Cortex will hopefully bring all employees closer to the community.
“There’s actually some really cool stuff going on in St. Louis,” Baum said. “We just have to be exposed to it and put ourselves in the position to interact with it. Typical routines don’t allow us to do that.”
Baum said the plan is to start with a small space at CET@CIC and “grow as you go.”
“Hopefully by the end of 2019 they won’t have a place big enough for us.”