Northwest food wholesaler Associated Grocers (AG) announced yesterday it is exploring a few options on its plate — and selling the...

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Northwest food wholesaler Associated Grocers (AG) announced yesterday it is exploring a few options on its plate — and selling the company is one of them.

The Seattle co-op that supplies independent grocers such as Larry’s Market and Red Apple is looking at ways to provide shareholders with a “stable and aggressive” supply chain and maximize its investments, said AG Chairman Ron Brake.

Between 2000 and 2003, the company restructured and, because of that, has come out healthier than it has been in the past 30 years, Brake said. Last year, the company generated $794.8 million in sales, and according to Brake, is likely to bring in about $1 billion this year. The company does not release earnings figures.

Brake said the board recently asked investment bank Piper Jaffray to assess AG’s current position and recommend strategies. The consultants estimated most wholesale groceries would be undergoing major consolidation in the next five years.

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“AG really operates quite efficiently and has almost no debt left. It is really not an AG issue,” Brake said. “With all the competitors that we as independent grocers face today, we have to ask, ‘Is this the best, cheapest way to buy goods today — or is there a better way?’ “

Brake said the company is considering a range of options, including investing on the current model, setting up an alliance with other wholesalers or selling AG.

Associated Grocers is a retailer-owned cooperative that was founded in 1934 and serves about 300 retail locations in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the Pacific Rim. It is the eight-largest privately held corporation in the state, with 1,000 employees.

Christina Siderius: 206-515-5066 or csiderius@seattletimes.com