Birmingham-based Buffalo Rock Company on Monday announced that its board of directors has voted to approve Matthew Dent as the company’s chief executive officer. This marks Dent the first CEO in the company’s 120-year history that is not a member of the Lee family.
According to a release, previous CEO Jimmy Lee III will continue to serve daily as executive chairman of Buffalo Rock. He will reportedly be involved at a strategic level with the company’s operations, while Dent will run and be responsible for the overall day-to-day performance of the venture.
Buffalo Rock is an independent Pepsi bottler based in Birmingham. Founded in 1901, the company in various markets has the territorial rights to Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, Sunkist, Aquafina, Sobe Lifewater, O.N.E., Propel, Gatorade, G2, Amp, Rockstar, Hawaiian Punch, Ocean Spray, Sobe, Fruit Shoot, Starbucks, Canada Dry, Lipton Teas and Maxwell House products.
Additionally, the company has its own staple brands: Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale, Grapico, Sunfresh and Dr. Wham, which is sold in territories that Buffalo Rock does not have the rights to Dr. Pepper.
“Today’s a very exciting day for the Buffalo Rock family and for the future of our company,” stated Lee, a fourth generation member of the company. “This year we are celebrating the 120-year anniversary of when my family started our company right here in Birmingham and we have come a long way since that time thanks to our employee-partners. Matthew has shown the necessary skills to lead the company into the future and I have complete confidence in his leadership. He knows and practices the culture that defines and makes our company a great success.”
As of 2019, Buffalo Rock was estimated to be Alabama’s 29th-largest private company, with annual sales of about $450 million in 2018. The company is already the largest independent single shareholder owned Pepsi Bottler in the United States, as well as the third largest for Sunkist, the sixth largest for Dr. Pepper and the 10th largest for Canada Dry. An impressive 85% of everything Buffalo Rock sells is manufactured in Birmingham, and about 10% of the company’s employee-partners are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The company recently announced a historic expansion of its Magic City footprint.
Dent first went to work as an intern 25 years ago in the Tuscaloosa division of Buffalo Rock while he was a student at the University of Alabama. Since joining the company, he has been involved in all facets of the business. Dent previously served as president for 10 years and has also served as COO for many years. He will keep the president title in addition to his new CEO designation.
“For well over half my life I have worked at Buffalo Rock. The people I work with here are family, and I could not be prouder to lead such a talented, driven and committed group,” said Dent in a statement. “I am honored to be named CEO and I am committed to continue leading with passion and integrity, working every day toward creating circular success for both the company and the individual employee-partners.”
In addition to its Birmingham expansion, Buffalo Rock in December announced that it had purchased and is building a $20 million facility in west Huntsville.
“We are thrilled and extremely supportive of these executive appointments at Buffalo Rock Company, which has been a 70-year partner of PepsiCo,” commented Kirk Tanner, CEO of PepsiCo Beverages North America. “Jimmy Lee, III has built a tremendous company and has always brought a growth mindset for the business and developing talent, while constantly looking to invest in the future. Matthew Dent also has been an outstanding leader who has played a critical role in modernizing the Buffalo Rock business while also selflessly giving his time and energy to help grow the broader beverage industry. We couldn’t be more excited for these two leaders and Buffalo Rock and look forward to building on our strategic partnership for the future.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn