Wholesalers & Distributors

UNFI retail chief Mike Stigers to exit

The grocery industry veteran and Cub Foods CEO informed the distributor of plans to resign from his post earlier this week.
Cub Foods supermarket_Shutterstock
United Natural Foods Inc.'s retail business is led by Midwestern chain Cub Foods, for which Stigers served as chief executive. / Photo: Shutterstock

Mike Stigers, CEO of retail at United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), plans to leave the company later this spring, the Providence, Rhode Island-based distributor reported in an 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

UNFI said in the SEC filing on Thursday, which it later confirmed, that Stigers informed the company on Monday that he aims to resign to “pursue another professional opportunity.” Plans call for Stigers to stay at UNFI until May 31 to “enable a smooth transition.”

“Through many different leadership roles, Mike has had a tremendous impact on this company and so many of us. On behalf of our board of directors, senior leadership team and all UNFI associates, I thank Mike for his innumerable contributions, including his most recent leadership of Cub and Shoppers,” UNFI CEO Sandy Douglas said in a statement. "Mike has helped both retail banners navigate significant change and has consistently demonstrated his commitment to the communities they serve, which has fostered continued customer loyalty. He has been a great partner to me and a respected industry leader.”

The SEC filing, which didn’t include any information about a potential successor to Stigers, came a day after UNFI announced the promotions of Erin Horvath to chief operating officer and Louis Martin to president of wholesale. Horvath had been named chief supply-chain transformation officer in October, while Martin had been appointed to the newly created role of chief strategy and transformation officer a year ago. And in July, UNFI had unveiled a new leadership and organizational structure more closely aligned to the its strategic priorities.

Earlier this month, the company also said it was pursuing a “transformation plan” in reporting fiscal 2023 second-quarter results.

Mike Stigers-UNFI_March2023

Mike Stigers, UNFI Retail CEO. / Photo courtesy of United Natural Foods Inc.

At UNFI, Stigers oversaw the operation of the retail grocery business, which totaled fiscal 2022 sales of $2.47 billion, up 1.1% year over year. The unit is led by Cub Foods, which has a retail network of 80 supermarkets and pharmacies, primarily in the Twin Cities market, with one Illinois store. Cub also operates 31 beer, wine and spirits stores under the Wine & Spirits and Cub Liquor banners. UNFI’s retail arm, too, includes 20 Shoppers stores in the Maryland, northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., markets.

Stigers has served as CEO of Cub Foods since 2019 and later became UNFI Retail CEO. Previously, he had served as executive vice president of UNFI Fresh from 2019 to 2020. Stigers came to UNFI in the fall of 2018 as part of the company’s $2.9 billion acquisition of fellow grocery distributor Supervalu Inc. At the time of the deal, he had been executive vice president of wholesale supply-chain services and logistics at Supervalu since 2016.

His 50 years of grocery industry experience also include serving as president of Shaw’s and Star Markets when he joined Supervalu in 2011 and then as Cub Foods president; regional vice president of Sterilox Fresh, a food safety firm; and chief operating officer of PW Supermarkets. Stigers started his grocery career as a part-time courtesy clerk at Safeway. He also has been active in several trade groups, including the California Grocers Association and as president of the Western Association of Food Chains and chairman of the National Grocers Association.

Recently, UNFI had begun to step up investment in its retail arm. In late September, the company announced three store reacquisitions and two remodels for Shoppers, which not long ago was earmarked for divestiture along with Cub.

Shoppers Food & pHarmacy-store exterior

UNFI had recently begun to invest in its Shoppers banner, which not so long ago was slated for divestiture. / Photo: Shoppers

In mid-2020, then-UNFI Chairman and CEO Steven Spinner said the company planned to spin off Shoppers and Cub as a stand-alone unit, with the sale of the stores not expected for another 24 months. When UNFI acquired the two chains as part of Supervalu, the latter already had been divesting its retail grocery stores, and the process continued under UNFI. But in May 2020, UNFI said it would put the sale of Shoppers and Cub on hold for 12 to 18 months so the stores could continue providing customers with groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Then in June 2021, Spinner said at UNFI’s Investor Day event that it would continue to own and operate the Cub and Shoppers stores, citing the chains’ strong performance and community value during the pandemic.

Like Shoppers, Cub also has been making improvements. The past couple of years, for example, saw the chain invest in fresh food operations, technology and e-commerce as well as open liquor stores.

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.



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