Kraft Heinz and Agri-Mark: Shippers of Choice through thick and thin

Companies embrace collaborative relationships with carriers as their truck drivers move cheese and other essential foods across the United States

As Americans hunkered down for COVID-19, they went big for the essentials. That included lots of cheese, among other foodstuffs. FreightWaves Shipper of Choice winners Agri-Mark and Kraft Heinz, and their partner carriers, answered the call.

During a time that tested the limits of the supply chain, Agri-Mark and Kraft Heinz stayed true to their strong, collaborative relationships with carriers.

“It’s just the right thing to do regardless of market conditions,” said Kevin Wille, head of U.S. Transportation for Kraft Heinz. “We’re lucky that we’re shipping a lot of freight.” 

Or as Katie Dattilio, transportation logistics supervisor at Agri-Mark’s Cabot Creamery in Vermont said, “At the end of the day, you treat people how you want to be treated.” 

Agri-Mark and Kraft Heinz emerged among the best of the best in FreightWaves’ Shipper of Choice Awards. Sponsored by Transflo, the awards recognize the top shippers out of 400 firms nominated by FreightWaves readers on social media.

Nominees each completed a survey covering operational data — including dwell times, overages/shortages and damages — communications protocols and hours of operations. They also supplied information about their facilities, such as shower availability, bathrooms and break areas for drivers. 

The winners were announced during FreightWaves LIVE @HOME on May 6. They fell into four groupings: Best Overall, Facilities, Efficiency and Availability.

Kraft Heinz: Transparency, consistency and listening 

Chicago-based Kraft Heinz is one of the world’s largest food and beverage producers, doing $25 billion in sales in 2019. Despite the sheer scale of its U.S. operations, the company attends to small details and makes time for its carriers. 

“We try to be consistent as well as transparent with our carriers,” Wille said.

Earlier in the spring, a truck driver observed that one of their sites used keypads for entry. The problem: Those numbered keys represented additional surfaces to touch during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We fixed it within about 24 hours of the driver mentioning it,” Wille said.

What’s notable, Wille said, was that the driver wasn’t making a stink about it. But it quickly got relayed up the chain at Kraft Heinz.

That kind of open communication represents something the company has built into its supply chain operations. It also extends to the large fleets and smaller carrier partners who can be critical to serving certain regions even when there’s an excess of capacity. 

“We’re always listening,” Wille said.

The company also has been making strides in ensuring that drivers spend less time waiting for loads.

“We’ve had some significant improvements in trailer turn time,” said Erin Mitchell, head of US Warehousing at Kraft Heinz. “More drivers are able to flow through our facilities.”

Agri-Mark: Stable rates, old-fashioned service — with some predictive analysis

Space is in short supply in the truck yard at Agri-Mark’s Cabot Creamery. Meanwhile, the nature of the cheese business keeps lead times tight. But there’s a waiting list for carriers eager to haul Cabot’s namesake cheese and other dairy products across the U.S.

Carriers get a level of personalized service, which reflects the core values of the cooperative of family farmers that owns Agri-Mark.

“We’re kind of old-fashioned,” said Dattilio, the transportation logistics supervisor at Cabot.

Cabot ships cheese and other products across the U.S., much of it less-than-truckload. An LTL run for Cabot might include 10 to 12 stops en route to California, Dattilio said.

Dattilio doesn’t use load boards very often. Instead, she likes to call up carriers and figure out the best place to send them. 

“We like to give them loads so we can position them to get additional freight,” Dattilio said.

Increasingly, Dattilio and her team are using predictive analysis to strategically move freight.  

Carriers also benefit from rates that usually stay in place for a year Cabot prefers to stick with them even in a down market. 

“We just get better service this way,” Dattilio said.

Click here to learn more about Transflo’s new Electronic Bill of Lading for Shippers.

Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at