Careers at United Natural Foods
United Natural Foods operates as a wholesaler and distributor of organic foods across the US and Canada, seeking to provide supermarkets and specialist retailers with a varied portfolio of natural products.
United Natural Foods was established in its current form in 1996, by way of a merger between Mountain People's Warehouse and Cornucopia Natural Foods. The Company traces its history back to 1976, when Mountain People’s Warehouse was founded in California by Michael Funk. This was followed a year later by the establishment of Cornucopia Natural Foods in Rhode Island by Norman Cloutier. Both companies were set up with a view to providing natural produce to retailers across the US.
The two companies merged in 1996, creating the first nationally-focused natural foods distribution company in the US. The Company has since acquired a number of other regional distributors, and in 1998 purchased Hershey Import Company, a roaster and packager for nuts, seeds, dried fruit and snacks. United Natural Foods added speciality products to its portfolio through the 2007 acquisition of Millbrook Distribution Services.
Today, United Natural Foods operates a distribution network comprising 31 distribution centres across the US and Canada. The Company also operates its own retail chain under the Earth Origins brand, and continues to manufacture nuts and snack products. United Natural Foods is placed 335th in the Fortune 500 list and is listed on the NASDAQ. The Company has a current market capitalisation of $1.98 billion.
Benefits at United Natural Foods
Business model of United Natural Foods
United Natural Foods operates principally as a distributor of organic foods. The Company serves a range of customers within the food service and grocery sector. It divides its customers into four customer categories:
- Independent natural products retailers, including buying clubs, food cooperatives, and specialist food retailers;
- Conventional supermarkets, comprising mass market retail chains and mainstream supermarkets;
- Supernatural chains, solely comprising Whole Foods Market Inc; and
- Other, comprising foodservice customers and international customers outside North America.
In addition to serving Whole Foods Market, to which it is the primary supplier, United Natural Foods also includes leading grocery chains Kroger, Vitamin Cottage, Wegmans, Sprouts Farmers Market, Giant-Carlisle, Shop-Rite, Publix and Fred Meyer.
United Natural Foods also serves general consumers directly through its chain of retail stores, which operate across the US under the name Earth Origins.
United Natural Foods’s principal market is its native US, which accounts for the majority of the Company’s business. The Company also serves customers in Canada, and has some operations outside North America, notably through brokers in Asia and the Caribbean.
United Natural Foods provides value to its customers in the following ways:
- Its broad product portfolio, with the Company offering more than 80,000 products across multiple product categories, following food trends and expanding its selection of products by 1,000 every month;
- Its efficient and well-placed distribution network, with the Company operating broad distribution infrastructure across the US and Canada and a fleet more around 1,000 delivery vehicles;
- Its category management program, with the Company analysing the operations of its customers, providing customers with appropriate products that aim to maximise sales based consumer demographics and lifestyle;
- Its flexible pricing structure, with the Company allowing customers to create their own pricing program, with control over delivery frequency, account management, and merchandising support; and
- Its commitment to sustainability, with the Company committed to providing foods in a sustainable way and identifying reliable producers.
United Natural Foods operates a website at www.unfi.com, through which the Company provides information on its products, services, and activities. While the Company does not operate an online sales channel, it provides an online customer portal through which customers can manage certain account details.
United Natural Foods serves customers through its own in-house sales team, which are organised by region. The Company utilises its own distribution network, which is organised into three regions – Eastern Region, Western Region and Canadian Region – which operate a combined 31g distribution centres, representing approximately 7.7 million square feet of warehouse space, making the Company the largest North American-based distributor in the natural, organic and specialty products industry.
United Natural Foods also serves consumers directly through its network of 13 natural products retail stores, under the Earth Origins brand, including ten in Florida, two in Maryland, and one in Massachusetts. The Company also operates its own manufacturing and distribution channels through its Woodstock Farms Manufacturing unit, which imports, roasts, packages and distributes nuts, dried fruit, seeds, trail mixes, granola, natural and organic snack items and confections.
United Natural Foods operates an online customer portal, through which customers can manage certain account details without interacting directly with members of the Company’s sales team.
United Natural Foods deals directly with customers through its direct sales teams. The Company consults closely with its customers, discussing all detail of any distribution agreement, including delivery frequency, product selections, and merchandising support, as well as negotiating a flexible pricing structure. Sales and distribution agreements are typically agreed for multi-year periods.
United Natural Foods provides some customer support resources through its website, as well as web support for its online portal. Existing and potential customers can contact the Company’s support staff directly by email or through an online contact form, or can interact with the Company through its social media accounts with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
United Natural Foods operates as a wholesaler and distributor of natural, organic and specialty foods, as well as certain non-food products, across the US and Canada.
The Company divides its products into six categories: grocery and general merchandise, produce, perishables and frozen foods, nutritional supplements and sports nutrition, bulk and food service products, and personal care items. United Natural Foods operates through three separate divisions: Wholesale, which includes its organic and specialty distribution business in the US, its organic and specialty business in Canada, and its Albert's Organics and Select Nutrition units; Retail, which comprises its natural products retail stores across the US; and Manufacturing, which comprises the Company’s Woodstock Farms Manufacturing unit.
United Natural Foods collaborates with a range of companies and organisations across its multiple operating divisions. These partnerships include:
- Supplier and Vendor Partners, comprising suppliers of products, natural produce, and services, as well as vendors to which certain functions can be outsourced;
- Strategic and Alliance Partners, comprising a range of companies and organisations with which the Company shares resources and collaborates on joint projects; and
- Community and Social Partners, comprising non-profits and charitable organisations, with which the Company collaborates on community and philanthropic projects.
United Natural Foods has launched a number of partnerships in recent years. This includes a tie-up with Retail Solutions to transform retailer data into insights and alerts, and a deal with Fresh Healthy Vending under which it offers franchisees additional discounts on food purchases.
United Natural Foods’s key resources are its product portfolio and stock, its manufacturing facilities, its distribution and logistics infrastructure, its chain of retail stores, its IT infrastructure, its partnerships – in particular its suppliers, and its personnel.
United Natural Foods owns and leases a number of properties across the US and Canada. This includes 31 distribution centres spanning a combined area of approximately 7.7 million square feet, 13 natural products retail stores, and manufacturing facilities operated under its Woodstock Farms Manufacturing unit.
United Natural Foods incurs costs in relation to the acquisition of supplies and produce, the operation of its distribution network – including its fleet of vehicles, the operation of its retail chain, the operation of its manufacturing facilities, the maintenance of its IT infrastructure, the implementation of marketing and advertising campaigns, the management of its partnerships, and the retention of its personnel.
In 2015 United Natural Foods accrued total operating costs in the amount of $1.02 billion, including the payment of salaries and benefits to the Company’s workforce of 8,700 full and part-time employees. In 2015, the Company accrued property and equipment costs totalling $572.45 million.
United Natural Foods generates revenue primarily through the distribution of organic foods to supermarkets, specialty stores, and foodservice businesses. Its product sales are organised into six categories:
- Grocery and general merchandise;
- Perishables and frozen foods;
- Nutritional supplements and sports nutrition;
- Bulk and foodservice products; and
- Personal care items.
The Company also generates revenue through the operation of its own natural foods retail chain, as well as through the provision of marketing services designed to increase sales for customers and suppliers.
In 2015 United Natural Foods generated total net sales of $8.18 billion, up on the $6.79 billion in sales recorded by the Company in 2014. The vast majority of the Company’s sales are attributed to its wholesale distribution business, which accounted for $8.10 billion in sales for the year.
info: Steven (“Spinner”) has served as Chief Executive Officer and President of United Natural Foods since 2008. Prior to joining United Natural Foods, Spinner was a long-serving employee of Performance Food Group Company, which he joined in the 1980s. He worked for the Company in a number of roles, beginning his career in at AFI Food Service, a subsidiary of Performance Food Group Company. After a spell as President of AFI Food Service, Spinner was appointed Broadline Regional President of Performance Food Group Company in 2000. He went on to hold a number of senior executive roles at the Company, including spells as Chief Executive Officer of the Broadline Segment, Chief Operating Officer, and Senior Vice President. Prior to joining United Natural Foods, he served as President and Chief Executive Officer at Performance Food Group Company.
info: Sean (“Griffin”) has served as Chief Operating Officer at United Natural Foods since 2014. He has previously served as the Company’s Group President of Supply Chain, Distribution and National Sales, and Senior Vice President of National Distribution. In his early career, Griffin held a number of roles within the foodservice distribution industry, beginning his career at Sysco Corporation in 1986. He went on to join Alliant Foodservice (which was later renamed US Foodservice), where he held a number of roles, including spells as Executive Vice President and General Manager. In 2003 Griffin was appointed President at Performance Food Group, where he went on to hold additional positions such as President of East Region Broadline. Prior to joining United Natural Foods, Griffin served as President at Springfield Foodservice Corporation.
info: Michael (“Zechmeister”) has served as Chief Financial Officer, Senior Vice President, and Treasurer at United Natural Foods since 2015. Zechmeister has held roles within the consumer goods and retail sectors for a number of years. He was a long-serving employee of General Mills, where he held a number of positions. This includes spells as Vice President of Finance at General Mills’s Yoplait USA unit, Vice President and Treasurer of General Mills, Vice President of Finance for General Mills’s US Retail Sales, and Vice President of Finance at General Mills’s Pillsbury Division.
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