Longtime Mars Inc. executive Mario Maffie has joined United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) as chief information officer, taking over from predecessor Jack Clare, who left the company.
Plans call for Maffie, currently vice president and CIO at candy and food giant Mars, to start as UNFI CIO on Oct. 2, the Providence, Rhode Island-based grocery distributor said Thursday. Reporting to Chief Operating Officer Erin Horvath, Maffie will lead UNFI’s IT team and supervise initiatives to integrate critical network systems and accelerate the use of data and insights to support customers and suppliers.
“Our information technology team, the backbone of our operations, is currently engaged in network and systems integration work that is critical to the success of our business and the transformation we have undertaken,” Horvath said in a statement. “Over the past 20-plus years, Mario has been at the forefront of helping Mars harness the power of data, analytics and automation, ensuring that Mars continually evolved its technology through new platforms and modern capabilities, including AI-based programs, and digital transformation initiatives. He brings a wealth of experience in strategy development and execution and is known for nurturing the talent of tomorrow.”
Clare departed UNFI last November to pursue other opportunities, a company spokesman said in an email on Thursday. Santhosh Kumar, chief technology officer at UNFI, served as the interim leader of the IT organization during the company's search for a new CIO, which led to the hiring of Maffie.
UNFI’s hiring of Clare as CIO in March 2020 drew significant media and industry attention due to his technology and strategic leadership experience at prominent consumer packaged goods and restaurant companies. Before coming to UNFI, he spent more than seven-and-a-half years at Dunkin’ Brands, most recently as senior VP and chief information and strategy officer. Prior to that, he served as VP of IT and CIO at Yum! Restaurants International and as VP of technical services at beer, wine and spirits manufacturer Constellation Brands.
Maffie brings deep technology experience to UNFI as well. The company noted that his 24 years at Mars—a multinational manufacturer in the confectionery, food products, pet food and animal care services markets—included roles of increasing responsibility. He has served as Mars’ corporate CIO since 2018, overseeing technology for corporate functions like human resources, procurement, finance and legal, as well as global technology capabilities such master data management, reporting and integration services and platforms, automation, supply chain and global ERP.
His tenure at Mars also has included senior tech leadership posts such as senior director of technology strategy and execution (2016-2018) plus director roles supporting global technology transformation (2014-2016) and end-user technologies (2010-2014). In 2010, UNFI said, Maffie served on the integration team that brought together Mars and Wrigley, successfully harmonizing the data center, network, infrastructure, service desk and IT organization. The distributor added that he also brings experience launching global master data platform with SAP MDG and led Mars’ first global deployment of predictive, AI-based financial performance products.
“We’re excited for Mario to join our team,” Horvath stated, “and look forward to the positive contributions he will make in this leadership position.”
North America’s largest publicly traded grocery distributor, UNFI operates 56 distribution centers and supplies more than 250,000 natural, organic and conventional products to over 30,000 retailers in the United States and Canada, including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, e-commerce retailers and foodservice providers. The company’s also operates a supermarket retail business of more than 70 stores under the Cub Foods and Shoppers banners.
*Editor's Note: Article updated with more information on Jack Clare.