Sysco announced their intent to “merge” with US Foods early this month which is expected to close in the 3rd quarter of 2014. The combined company will represent about 30% of the foodservice distribution market. Who saw that move coming? They’ve created a website bestofbothinfood.com to relay the benefits. Peter Romeo, VP and Editorial Director of Restaurant Business Online suggests in his blog that the merger will speed technological advancements and eliminate distribution redundancies. However operators are concerned that service will suffer, prices will increase, while choice declines. For manufacturers, Bill Hale suggests that the new landscape will require an approach similar to Walmart which includes aligned teams and product development specific to Sysco’s brands. Distribution has always been critical to getting foodservice products to the operator and ultimately the consumer. Though there is a lot of uncertainty moving forward, one thing is clear – Branded manufacturers who deliver value-added products, who offer good price/value, and who build loyal relationships with operators willing to demand their brands will continue to succeed.