United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) has broken ground on a new distribution center situated just north of Sarasota, Florida.
Providence, Rhode Island-based UNFI said Thursday the 1 million-square-foot facility will replace an aging 734,000-square-foot DC in Sarasota while bringing the latest warehouse technology. The distributor is working with JLL, Broadstone Net Lease, Sansone Group and ARCO Design/Build on the new DC’s construction, expected to be completed in September 2024.
UNFI noted that the upcoming DC will feature automation and other technologies to improve selecting, packing and loading functions. For example, KNAPP repack automation stands to raise service levels to customers and reduce the cost to fill orders, the company said.
The new DC site is located in the SRQ Logistics Center, a 300-acre, master-planned business park adjacent to Sarasota’s International Airport as well as Interstate 75 and U.S.-301. UNFI added that the fully air-conditioned warehouse will leverage natural daylighting concepts, dimmable lighting and a full-building water filtration system plus offer workforce-friendly amenities.
“Distribution is our core business, so when we build a new distribution center, we want to incorporate as much automation and technology as possible to improve our ability to service our customers while simultaneously lowering our costs to do so,” UNFI Chief Operating Officer Erin Horvath said in a statement. “We are also very excited about providing a working environment designed around the needs of both our customers and our associates.”
Other UNFI DCs in Florida include facilities in Pompano Beach (779,000 square feet), and Quincy (758,000 square feet).
North America’s largest publicly traded grocery distributor, UNFI operates 56 distribution centers and supplies more than 30,000 retailers in the United States and Canada, including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, e-commerce retailers and foodservice providers.
At the end of March, UNFI unveiled plans for a new 1.3 million-square-foot DC in Manchester, Pennsylvania. The temperature-controlled facility, which will support the distributor’s growing Mid-Atlantic customer base, is slated to be built over 15 months.
Two other distribution centers became operational in 2022, including a 125,000-square-foot refrigerated DC in Londonderry, New Hampshire, and a 1.3 million-square-foot facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to serve the surrounding area.
Just before announcing the upcoming Manchester facility, UNFI said it also plans to deploy new Symbotic robotics and automation software at its 1.15 million-square-foot DC in Centralia, Washington. The facility will be the first to get Symbotic’s automation, which provides robotic case-pick capabilities, under a deal announced in September that calls for the platform to deploy to five UNFI distribution centers over a four-year period.