Our History


The origins of our company date back to the end of World War II. Fueled by Canadians returning home from the war and by a rise in European immigration, many specialty food distributors were set-up to cater to a growing demand for authentic European foods. David Ashley and company was started in Ontario and operated in Eastern Canada, selling European foods and confections. Similarly, Koffman Foods was set-up in Western Canada selling imported foods and cheese.

This same period also saw the start-ups of Van’s Trading, a purveyor of mostly Dutch foods and UB International, the selling company for the United Biscuits range of products. In the early 1960s all these businesses were merged or acquired and the operating entity soon became known across Canada as Ashley-Koffman Foods. Ashley-Koffman continued to thrive with its focus on specialty foods and imported cheese.

In 1999, Ashley-Koffman Foods was acquired by Tree of Life, a U.S. based specialty and natural foods distributor owned by Royal Wessanen NV, a Dutch company. This started another period of accelerated growth as we entered the Natural Foods business in Canada. In 2001, we acquired Preisco-Jentash, a Western Canada based specialty and natural food distributor. We followed this successful acquisition, with another, acquiring BEC Trading in 2002, an Ontario based natural food distributor.

Concurrent with these acquisitions, we changed our name from Ashley-Koffman to Tree of Life Canada. This name more accurately portrayed our North American roots as a provider of specialty and natural foods.

In early 2010, the Tree of Life North American business was acquired by KeHE Distributors; a Chicago based company, and one of the leading specialty and natural foods distributors in North America. Under this new ownership, we will continue to operate as an independent subsidiary within the group, due to the unique differences of the Canadian marketplace. Our operating name in Canada has changed slightly and will continue as Tree of Life Canada, a KeHE Company. This unique relationship allows us to act independently where required but also offers us the ability to share information across the border and to take advantage of opportunities that help both our retailers and our vendor partners.