Access to UNFI’s diverse network of independent retailers, national distribution capabilities with unique selling opportunities, and tailored programs help position brands for success
With consumers looking for new food experiences in addition to connecting with brands that share similar values, United Natural Foods, Inc. (NYSE: UNFI) (the “Company” or “UNFI”) is leveraging the scale of its distribution network to help emerging brands expand distribution with UNFI’s diverse customer base and better reach North American consumers.
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Emerging brands including Talia, Once Upon a Farm, and Evive are experiencing growth thanks to a strong relationship with UNFI, North America's premier grocery wholesaler. Images provided to UNFI by Talia, Once Upon a Farm, and Evive.
To service over 30,000 retail customer locations, UNFI relies on its 56 distribution centers, representing over 30 million square feet of warehouse space to facilitate the more than 1.8 million deliveries the Company made during its Fiscal Year 2022. This vast supply chain network presents brands with an opportunity to not only market to a variety of new retail customers, but also accelerate speed to new markets.
“UNFI works with some of the most dynamic and innovative local, regional, and national grocers in North America, which presents a tremendous brand positioning opportunity,” said John Raiche, UNFI executive vice president, Supplier Services. “Emerging brands can take advantage of UNFI’s account managers and sales team who have built long-term relationships with our customers, bringing them tailored programs, solutions, and enhanced value-added insights to strengthen suppliers’ marketing and merchandising efforts.”
Utilizing UNFI Selling Shows to Meet Hundreds of Retailers
Start-up frozen pizza company, Talia Di Napoli, attended their first UNFI selling show in February 2022 in Orlando, Fla. Started in 2018 by current Neapolitans, Talia di Napoli makes a variety of frozen pizza creations, handmade in Italy by master pizzaiolos, using time-honored traditions and local, all-natural ingredients. Since their first UNFI show, CEO Edouard Freda has been introduced to hundreds of UNFI independent retailers and points to these connections as having a significant impact on their growth.
“We had never done a UNFI show before February 2022,” said Freda. “We were in approximately six UNFI distribution centers with maybe 300 stores and we’re now in 12 distribution centers and have grown to over 800 retail locations. UNFI is the partner who is truly helping us scale our business. To start in New York and be able to distribute products to the West Coast with all the complexities and logistics is enormous. If you get your products and marketing programs right, UNFI is the perfect distributor to help take you nationwide and help you gain the notoriety and visibility that creates meaningful retail relationships.”
UNFI UpNext Helps Emerging Brands Navigate Growth
When a new supplier comes to UNFI looking for distribution, the Company offers several options, including its UpNext program, which is tailored to emerging brands. UpNext suppliers are selected through a rigorous review process with a goal of finding brands primed for growth and geographic expansion.
Founded in 2015, Evive, a nutrition company that helps boost consumers’ morning routines through plant-based, gluten-free smoothies, had already established their brand throughout Canada having received a financial investment on Dragons’ Den, a reality television program similar to the United States’ television show, Shark Tank. With eyes on expanding their footprint into the U.S., Evive turned to UNFI’s UpNext program to gain the resources, insights, and hands-on relationship to properly introduce the brand and products to the appropriate natural, conventional, and independent retailers. Just two years into the program, Evive has products in 13 UNFI distribution centers across the Company’s four regions and is scheduled to graduate from the UpNext program later this year.
“In addition to being amazing, the UpNext program gave us the information and attention to be immediately successful in the United States,” said Cristina Peters-Domenech, vice president of U.S. Sales at Evive. “UNFI’s infrastructure, retailer relationships, and ability to get our product into consumers hands quickly will serve our go-forward strategy well as we continue on our growth path and deepen our support for the retailers we service.”
Creating Introductions Throughout the Entire Store
While many growth brands start out in UNFI’s UpNext program, it’s not a requirement. Leading childhood nutrition company, Once Upon a Farm, created the first cold-pressed baby food available at retail. This initial product introduction disrupted the baby food category and, soon after, Once Upon a Farm addressed the kid snacking space with a portfolio of organic, cold-pressed fruit and veggie blends, dairy-free smoothies, and freshly frozen plant-rich meals for kids of all ages.
Working with UNFI, Once Upon a Farm found an opportunity for brand lifecycle expansion by aging-up the brand and creating delicious products for older children, too. While this gave the brand additional sales channels, it also meant developing relationships with retail buyers in multiple departments.
“Our goal is to create an environment where a child can eat nutritiously from their very first bite and help them develop a life-long preference for fresh food,” said Elliot Mason, Senior Team Director of Grocery Sales for Once Upon a Farm. “With different store buyers across every grocery department, UNFI helps serve as a conduit for us, creating a frictionless process for selling into multiple categories. UNFI has been an essential distribution partner for our brand, helping us grow not just in the natural channel, but in the conventional grocery space as well.”
Brands interested in learning more about UNFI can visit the UNFI supplier support site for additional information, resources, and contact information.
UNFI is North America's premier grocery wholesaler delivering the widest variety of fresh, branded, and owned brand products to more than 30,000 locations throughout North America, including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, ecommerce providers, and food service customers. UNFI also provides a broad range of value-added services and segmented marketing expertise, including proprietary technology, data, market insights, and shelf management to help customers and suppliers build their businesses and brands. As the largest full-service grocery partner in North America, UNFI is committed to building a food system that is better for all and is uniquely positioned to deliver great food, more choices, and fresh thinking to customers. To learn more about how UNFI is Fueling the Future of Food, visit www.unfi.com.