Acosta is a sales and marketing agency in Jacksonville, Florida, founded in 1927. Throughout its history Acosta has grown its business through acquisition. In 1956, Common & Company Food Brokers merged with Acosta. Robert (Hy) Albritton, who owned Common, became president and CEO of Acosta when Lou Acosta retired in 1959. For the first 40 years, the company expanded in northeast Florida but remained small and profitable; in the early 1970s there were around 12 employees servicing a single market.
Beginning in the 1970s, the Company started to acquire leading sales and marketing agents in contiguous markets within the Southeast. At that time, the Company recognized the value of increased reach and believed that further consolidation would occur with Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies, retailers and wholesalers. In 1974 Hy Albritton retired and Delmer Dallas became company president; expansion was at the top of his agenda. An office in Tampa was opened and the service area expanded to central Florida. A branch in Birmingham, Alabama, was started in 1977. In 1981, the Miami office was opened, and Acosta began serving the whole state of Florida. Dallas recognized that the company could grow faster through acquisitions so Raley Brothers was purchased in 1983, providing an immediate presence in Georgia. Acosta began doing business in the Carolinas in 1989, effectively covering the southeast U.S. Thereafter, the company expanded westward into Louisiana and began operations in Tennessee and Virginia.
The 1990s brought mass consolidation of food retailers and manufacturers and centralization of procurement centers. In 1992 the top five chains accounted for less than 20% of all grocery sales, but as mass retailers like Walmart began to sell groceries, the dynamics in the industry changed. In order to compete, supermarket chains had to become larger as well, and a wave of major mergers took place. By the mid-1990s, the company was servicing 27 markets and employed over 2,000 and held the leading position in the Southeast, seeking growth beyond its core region and the traditional CPG sales and marketing agency business.
With the merger of Acosta and PMI-Eisenhart (located in the Midwest) in July 1998 and the subsequent acquisitions of Kelley-Clarke (located in the West) in June 1999, the MAI companies (located in the Northeast) in August 1999, and Luke Soules (located in Texas and New Mexico) in July 2003, Acosta became a national agent and positioned itself favorably for future growth. In 2002, the company also expanded into Canada by bringing together five leading agencies across the country.
By the early 2000s, the top five grocery chains controlled 40% of all sales, and the consolidation trend continued. Faced with a handful of supermarket chains to sell to, manufacturers began to consolidate as well. As a result, both manufacturers and nationwide chains wanted to deal with national sales and marketing agents rather than contend with regional firms.
Acosta has also bolstered its business through various acquisitions of agencies dedicated to certain business channels. For example, in 2008 Acosta acquired C. Lloyd Johnson Company and entered the military channel, and in 2010 it acquired FrontLine Marketing to expand its marketing in-store activation services. In 2012, the company entered the foodservice channel through various acquisitions which shaped a national foodservice platform. In addition, in 2012, the company made the largest acquisition in its history with Mosaic Sales Solutions, a leading sales and merchandising, experiential marketing and interactive firm. In 2014, Acosta acquired Anderson Daymon Worldwide.
Acosta has had partnerships with investment companies such as Berkshire Partners, AEA Investments, Thomas H. Lee, and The Carlyle Group.
Former company president Delmer Dallas recruited Gary Chartrand from the Carnation Company in 1983 and mentored him as a successor. Chartrand was named President in 1993 and CEO when Dallas retired in 1996. Two years later Chartrand was elected Chairman of the Board, and company acquisitions accelerated across the US and Canada. Chartrand believed the best way to protect Acosta was to expand coast-to-coast. As the company expanded, it made strategic acquisitions and mergers which created immediate penetration into new markets and significantly increased the company’s client base.
After working 25 years with Acosta, Gary Chartrand named Robert E. Hill Jr. as its President and CEO, effective January 1, 2009. Chartrand remained with the company as executive chairman of the board of directors. Recently, Robert Hill made the Power 50 list by Supermarket News, which represents leaders among top retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, associations and more.
Acosta has developed and maintains long-standing relationships with leading companies. In fact, Acosta works with 25 of the top 30 CPG companies. Several of the relationships originated over 50 years ago. Examples of the Company’s longstanding relationships include the Clorox Company and Coca-Cola North America which have been clients since the 1930s and 1950s, respectively.
Acosta’s channels are: club, convenience, drug, e-commerce, electronics, foodservice, grocery, home improvement, mass merchandisers, military, natural/specialty foods, telecom, and value.
Acosta Sales and Marketing publishes a series of industry insights throughout the year. The research focuses on current and developing industry trends. Their “Hot Topic Reports” are narrowly focused, while their “The Why? Behind the Buy” and “The Why? Behind the Dine” reports feature broader industry coverage.
The most recent report showcased the changes in U.S. consumers' eating habits. Trends in snacking also were discussed in the report. Twenty-five per cent of total U.S. shoppers surveyed by Acosta said they eat a snack once a day, while 26% said they eat a snack two or three times a day and 4% do so four or more times a day.
In 2015, Acosta Sales & Marketing, partnered with Univision Communications Inc. (UCI), the leading media company serving Hispanic America, to release "The Why? Behind The Buy" U.S. Hispanic Shopper Study. The report reveals valuable insights into U.S. Hispanic shopper behavior. With the growth of the U.S. Hispanic population, this report will help CPG companies and retailers develop marketing strategies to best attract this important consumer segment.
Acosta received Top Women in Grocery Awards from Progressive Grocer, a respected CPG industry magazine, for several years in a row.
Progressive Grocer's Top Women in Grocery awards program recognizes the integral role women play across all areas of the dynamic retail food industry, within the retailer and supplier communities. The awards are distributed in three categories: Senior-Level Executives, Rising Stars and Store Managers.
Acosta also participates in the Network of Executive Women (NEW) to promote opportunities for women in the CPG industry. Acosta’s achievements have been recognized by the organization.