Meet Tree of Life Canada

We are the Canadian operation of KeHE Distributors, a leading U.S. distributor of natural and specialty food products, and one of the top growth partners for companies that want to elevate their brand and build customer demand.

The art of good taste

We’re not just distributors. We like to think of ourselves as curators. After all, you can’t do this job without an appreciation for quality, solid instincts and, of course, good taste.

And like a curator who carefully selects items for their exhibitions, we’ve assembled a tasteful collection of products to delight customers and retailers looking for new experiences. We’ve gone to great lengths to venture out of our own backyards and bring home the best the world has to offer.

Life is about exploring adventurous, authentic and fulfilling experiences. And nothing embodies our portfolio like these words. It’s how we’ve become Canada’s number-one growth partner for the F&B industry—from end to end.

From humble beginnings

The roots of our company date back to the end of World War II. Fuelled by Canadians returning home from the War and the rise in European immigration, many specialty goods distributors were not set up for the increasing demand for authentic European foods. Fast forward to 1999, when Tree of Life entered the natural foods business in Canada and substantially accelerated growth. Through a long history of acquisitions, we have become the industry leader we are today.

A history of good taste

1945

  • Canadians returning home from the war and European immigration fuel the demand for authentic European foods.
  • Specialty distributors like David Ashley and Koffman Foods are established.

1969

  • Neighbourhood grocery store owner Irwin Carasso opens a start-up natural foods business.
  • A small section of that store was the root that grew into Tree of Life.

1973

  • The Carasso family sells the store to focus on their distribution business, opening Tree of Life’s first dedicated natural food warehouse.

1980s

  • David Ashley, Koffman Foods, Van's Trading and UB International merge or are acquired.
  • The merged entity became known as Ashley-Koffman Foods, focusing on specialty foods and imported cheese.

1999

  • From 1986 to 1999, Tree of Life (a U.S. company owned by Dutch based Royal Wessanen) acquired ten regional distributers.
  • In the most significant acquisition, Tree of Life acquired the Canadian division of Ashley-Koffman Foods, initiating accelerated growth.
  • Tree of Life enters the Canadian natural foods market.

2001

  • Tree of Life Canada acquires Preisco-Jentash, a Western Canada-based specialty and natural food distributor.

2002

  • Tree of Life acquires BEC Trading, an Ontario-based natural food distributor.
  • Concurrent with these acquisitions, Tree of Life officially changes its name to Tree of Life Canada.

2010

  • KeHE Distributors, a Chicago-based distributor of specialty and natural foods, acquires Tree of Life's North American business.
  • Tree of Life Canada operates as an independent subsidiary, leveraging its unique position in the Canadian marketplace and benefiting from cross-border collaboration.

2018

  • Tree of Life acquires a significant minority share in four regional foodservice brokers: Binner Marketing & Sales, Concord Atlantic, McCormack Bourrie and Performance Courtier Alimentaire. Together, the partners form Tree of Life National Foodservice.

Meet the leadership team

A winning team requires exemplary leadership. Here’s who guides our strategic direction and oversees our day-to-day operations.

Lisa MacNeil

President

Patrick Heffernan

Chief Operating Officer

Christopher Parker

Senior Vice President, Information Technology and Operations

Tom Hatges

Senior Vice President, Food Service

Ricky Singh

Senior Vice President, Finance
Hands reaching for items on a charcuterie board

Canada’s curator of unique brands

We’re a Canadian company that’s proud to serve a variety of markets across the country.

What our clients say

What I like the most about Tree of Life is that they share the passion for our brand. They feel it is theirs, they are genuinely interested in it and they understand our goals. That makes it easy to work together. As a result, our retail business has grown 800% in the past 6 years.
Santiago Behar,
Canada Country Manager,
Novamex
In this ever-changing market, Tree of Life stands out with their forward-thinking approach. Over our 40-year partnership, their unwavering commitment, passion, and deep understanding of the Canadian retail scene have been evident. We're proud to be associated with a partner that not only understands the industry but actively creates opportunities for us suppliers to showcase our products and services to the Canadian retailers.
Darren Larvin,
Managing Director,
Coombe Castle International Ltd
Tree Of Life stands out as a top tier partner for Walker's Shortbread due to their commitment over so many years. For over 40 years, Walker's and Tree of Life have worked closely to develop our mutual business in the Canadian market. Tree of Life have consistently demonstrated unparalleled expertise and dedication in their field. Their extensive experience demonstrates their credentials and highlights the opportunity for brands looking to develop their business in Canada. We greatly value the guidance and support that Tree of Life have provided and are looking forward to the next 40 years as we set our shared goals and vision for the Walker's brand.
Alastair Walker,
Head of International Sales,
Walkers Shortbread Ltd.
Partnering with TOL made us nervous since we don’t give an exclusive, but it’s been fantastic! We were having trouble growing our brand and distribution in Canada. They’ve truly partnered with us and act as if they own part of our company. They put their own money into promotions, they’re proactive and they’re fun to deal with. We went from about 10,000/yr to about 500,000/yr. We LOVE TOL!
Doug Renfro,
President,
Renfro Foods Inc.
Tree of Life at a Habitat for Humanity build

Canada Cares

Canada Cares provides opportunities for our employees to volunteer in our communities and abroad.

We work with local organizations in need like food banks, and respond to those affected by local and international disasters. Our team’s volunteer service and fundraising efforts significantly contribute to these causes.

Canada Cares supports our employees’ personal philanthropic efforts by providing funding.
Our goal is to help the people we serve by moving them from dependence to dignity, while at the same time moving our people from a mindset of success to significance. We measure our success by employee engagement. Collectively, our mission is to make a difference in the communities where we live and work.

Industry associations

Working with various associations ensures your brand reaches its full potential. Our association partnerships allow us to stay in touch with key decision makers and on top of emerging trends in our industry.

Through seminars, meetings and trade shows, we stay in the loop on current issues and opportunities in the industry, which is a critical component of the success of our vendor and retailer partners.

Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC)

FCPC is the voice of the industry on many issues of importance to Canadians, including: food and product safety; helping to bring innovative products to market, including healthier-for-you options; promoting environmental stewardship; product labelling; and working to ensure the competitiveness of our industry so that Canadians have a choice and ready access to safe and innovative products.

Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG)

The Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG) is a non-profit trade association founded in 1962 acting as a strong and united voice for over 4,000 independent grocery retailers across Canada, providing programs for operational excellence and fostering solid relationships among retailers and suppliers.

CFIG

Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA)

The Canadian Health Food Association is Canada’s largest trade association for natural health and organic products. Its members include manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, distributors and importers of natural and organic products.

CHFA

Association des détaillants du Québec (ADA)

Fondée en 1955, l’Association des détaillants en alimentation du Québec (ADA) est la seule association qui représente l’ensemble des détaillants en alimentation du Québec. Elle est dirigée par des détaillants et pour les détaillants.

ADA

International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA)

The International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) is a nonprofit trade association for food retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers, brokers, distributors and other industry professionals. IDDBA helps its members enhance their economic position by providing opportunities for professional dialogue, education, exchange of industry data and selling.

IDDBA

International Cheese Council of Canada (ICCC)

The ICCC is an association of cheese importers, which was founded in 1976 to manage the implementation of cheese TRQs after cheese was added to the Import Control List. Its members include dairy cooperatives, primary processors, further processors, importers and retailers.

ICCC

Join our team

Start or continue a rewarding career with Tree of Life. Learn more about what we offer or explore our current opportunities below!

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