skip to content
KKR ESG & Citizenship Report

Eco-Innovation: US Foods

Focusing on Better Fisheries

Key Environmental Performance Area:

  • Sustainable Seafood (Products)

First nationwide foodservice distributor in the United States to earn Chain of Custody certification through the Marine Stewardship Council for all of its distribution centers.

Launched Serve Good product line to provide sustainable options for foodservice customers.

All data and information in this case study are as of December 31, 2016, unless otherwise noted.


Increased demand for seafood has put significant pressure on global fisheries, leading to unsustainable harvesting of fish and overfishing of various seafood stocks. In 2016, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States estimated 31.1 percent of fish stocks were fished at a biologically unsustainable level and therefore overfished, 58.1 percent were fully fished, and 10.5 percent were underfished.i Food product distributors can play a key role in safeguarding global fish stocks by sourcing sustainable seafood for their customers.

US Foods is the second largest broadline foodservice distributor in the United States, providing food and food-related products to independent restaurants, health care and hospitality customers, educational institutions, and prominent multiunit restaurant companies.


Food quality and safety are foundational focus areas for US Foods, and the company strives to practice the highest quality of stewardship in individual food categories, including seafood. As a result, US Foods is working to ensure that its practices in this category are informed and influenced by the industry leading approaches to quality and environmental considerations. This work helps US Foods support sustainable seafood practices in its supply chain, maintain customer relationships, and reduce business risk.

As part of its efforts, US Foods aligned with a number of leading organizations and standards during 2016 to inform the implementation of best practices. Among other steps, US Foods:

  • Became a founding member of the Global Aquaculture Alliance, which developed the Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification program for aquaculture
  • Joined the National Fisheries Institute, holds a seat on the board and joined the executive board
  • Holds a seat on the Board of Managers for the Better Seafood Board
  • Worked with the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, which provided a metrics database with assessments of all US Foods’ current exclusive brand products and provides semi-annual or quarterly reports on the sustainability progress of each category
  • Collected sourcing data from all of its exclusive brand suppliers in order to assign sustainability ratings to their products. Sourcing information is being used to set goals and encourage suppliers to join relevant Aquaculture Improvement Projects or Fishery Improvement Projects where necessary
  • Received the Ocean Hero Award from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)


Throughout 2016, US Foods launched Serve Good exclusive brand products focused on providing sustainable product options for its customers. US Foods has also developed a Progress Check label to identify and support suppliers that are working toward the rigorous MSC or BAP four-star certification, as achieving these certifications require substantial amounts of time and investment, it is important that these suppliers receive recognition.

In 2016, US Foods launched a number of Serve Good and Progress Check seafood products, including:

  • Harbor Banks Barramundi Filet – US Foods was instrumental in partnering with the supplier to have its supply chain certified to BAP standards. The supplier attained a three-star BAP certification and is on track to receive its four-star BAP certification by the end of 2018.
  • Harbor Banks Argentine Red Shrimp – US Foods is currently participating as a stakeholder in a fishery improvement project while the fishery is working toward MSC certification.
  • Harbor Banks Beer Battered Shrimp – US Foods partnered with its supplier to achieve four-star BAP certification, the highest standard for aquaculture products.
  • Harbor Banks Beer Battered Cod – US Foods was instrumental in ensuring that some of its highest volume items converted to using only MSC-certified raw material. These were the first items in its portfolio to achieve MSC certification.
  • Monarch Skipjack Tuna – This item is listed as a Progress Check product and is expected to attain MSC certification by the end of 2018.
  • Mussels and Clams – USF Mussels received a two-star BAP certification, the highest sustainability rating on the market, and the Clams are MSC certified.

US Foods has participated in KKR’s green program since 2008 and is communicating in the eco-innovation category for the second time. For more information on US Foods’ commitment to corporate responsibility, please visit its Corporate Citizenship program website.

i FAO. 2016. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2016. Rome. 5 pp.

ii Self-reported portfolio company data is not calculated, reviewed or independently verified by KKR or KKR Capstone. For more information regarding the results methodology for companies evaluating their own data, please see the methodology section. There is no guarantee that any GSP-related avoided costs or added efficiencies will positively impact the portfolio company’s valuation or performance.

i,ii,iii Unless otherwise noted, portfolio company data represents 2016 results, published in October 2017. These case studies may contain forward looking statements including descriptions of planned projects and projected results and savings. These statements are subject to the risk that the projects will not develop as planned or at all or that projected results and savings are not realized.