- KeHe announced Thursday that Deb Conklin, currently CEO of Reddy Ice LLC and a member of KeHe’s board of directors, will become its president and CEO on April 1.
- Brandon Barnholt, who currently holds both positions, will become the wholesale food distributor’s executive chairman.
- KeHe said the top executive change is part of a “carefully planned” ongoing succession process.
KeHe teed up Conklin’s hiring as bringing in an executive with extensive experience in pushing forward operational improvement and building important trade relationships, along with understanding customer service.
Conklin has been the CEO of Reddy Ice, the nation's largest packaged ice manufacturer and distributor, since 2017, per her LinkedIn profile.
Prior to Reddy Ice, Conklin was a managing director of Centerbridge Partners' Portfolio Operations, interim CEO of Pei Wei Fresh Kitchen, chief operating officer of Helix Poly and a senior operations advisor at TPG Capital. Conklin joined KeHe’s board of directors three years ago.
“Deb is a perfect cultural fit and is uniquely qualified with a solid combination of strong distribution and commercial experience in the food retail sector,” Barnholt said in a statement. “She is a seasoned, talented executive with deep experience in the capital markets and a keen strategic mind. Beyond that, she is an enthusiastic, humble, and focused leader with a bias for action.”
Barnholt, who has been KeHe’s president and CEO for 15 years, navigated the company through a growth spurt that included expanding from being a Midwest specialty distributor to the largest pure-play distributor of specialty, natural, organic and fresh products in North America. During Barnholt’s tenure, the company acquired Tree of Life, Nature’s Best and Monterrey Provisions.
“The strength of KeHE’s customer portfolio and diverse supplier universe is very exciting for the future. KeHE is an important distribution and supply chain partner throughout the retail food sector, and I look forward to helping all parties grow and succeed,” Conklin said in a statement.