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Meet Dennis Silva Jr. of Dari Farms Ice Cream Distributors

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dennis Silva Jr.

Dennis, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Dari Farms is a third generation family business that started with my grandfather, one of the most capable and resourceful men I’ve known (who was also an inductee of the Connecticut Country Music Association Hall of Fame!). He had a small dairy and frozen outfit, shipping products all over the country with little formal infrastructure. In the early 70’s, his sons (my father and uncle) took the reins and built out the ice cream distribution business. One of my favorite stories to tell is how my father would have a load of oranges he’d need to pick up in Florida, to sell back here in New England.

Instead of driving “dead head” with an empty truck all the way to Florida, they’d turn on the reefer unit (freezer for the truck) and load the truck with frozen product to sell on the way down to Florida… selling it off, pallet by pallet, until arrival in Florida, which of course required an empty truck (reefer turned off at that point) to receive the load of oranges headed back North. That kind of ingenuity and fortitude helped establish Dari Farms’ presence in the Northeast. While ice cream remains a staple within the business model, much of our volume is driven by our refrigerated and dry silos. These are items found outside of the ice cream aisle: juices, waters, frozen foods, packaged meats and cheeses, snack cakes, etc.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Like any company, Dari Farms has enjoyed many successes as well as hardships. During the recession, we navigated significant changes to our client base when some of our ice cream contracts either went out of business or changed models. Fortunately, we had already begun laying the groundwork to become the company we are today— a tri temp DSD food distributor. Our diverse infrastructure lends well to brands requiring TLC, whether a product is temperature sensitive, code life sensitive (short coded), or high impulse, our system is ideal for new products looking to grow, as well as established brands looking to maintain high levels of sales. This time next year, we anticipate that ice cream will account for about half of our business, with a majority stake coming from refrigerated, dry, and frozen food silos.

Dari Farms Ice Cream Distributors – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Our unique infrastructure sets us apart from other distribution companies in New England. Plenty of DSD companies offer “full service DSD” as their point of differentiation from drop ship warehouses, but only Dari Farms offers a “tri-temperature full service DSD” system.

Our tri-temp capabilities allow us to accommodate products ranging from frozen foods, to ambient beef jerky, to refrigerated cold pressed juices and yogurts… across any temperature range. Essentially, where most DSD companies traditionally specialize in one family of products or one temperature “silo”, Dari Farms has made significant investments to build an efficient tri-temp platform, resulting in true competency across a wide range of temperatures and products. We’re also partnered with many strong regional and national brands, which helps Dari Farms maintain a presence in convenience, grocery, drug, and value channels.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Having been in business for over 45 years, we are constantly re-evaluating and re-defining success as a company. Financial and sales goals are paramount to any organization. There’s simply no business without sales, but in my opinion cohesiveness within the team is just as important. We have over 200 employees, who we consider family, that would go to great lengths for this company. As Dari Farms continues to evolve, key leaders within the company have helped drive our organizational change, helping get everyone onboard, so we’re all “swimming” in the same direction. Our expansion into dry and refrigerated distribution is largely due to the good people we have and the cohesiveness they’ve fostered. Scalability is also an important factor. It’s one thing to have a vision, and another entirely to scale that vision into a self-sustaining business. We would not be able to do this without our retail and manufacturer partnerships, which have allowed Dari Farms to become a capable player in dry and refrigerated distribution… and we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible!

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