United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) wrapped up its Natural & Conventional Spring & Summer show in Orlando on Thursday with retailers hunting for value, deals and new products for their shoppers as they continue to battle high grocery prices.
“Our stores are located in primarily affluent communities and we’re seeing the trading down and smaller basket sizes across our stores, so the challenges consumers are facing are real,” said Jim McCaffrey, second-generation family owner of the seven-store McCaffrey’s Food Markets operation in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. “UNFI shows are tremendously important for us from networking with our UNFI account team to partner meetings directly with vendors. This year we’re seeing the return of stronger promotional activity from suppliers and a return to more normalcy in deals and discounts. By attending the show and working with vendors on promotional deals, we’re able to pass along valuable discounts to our shoppers while still holding on to margin for our business.”
Throughout the two-day event, over 2,000 UNFI customer attendees connected with the wholesaler’s network of suppliers of over 1,000 brands offering grocery, fresh, organic and specialty departments. UNFI’s Natural & Conventional Spring & Summer Show is the first of four major buying shows UNFI will host in 2023.
“Customers came to find deals and suppliers came ready to give deals and gain market share, and that’s a wonderful scenario for a buying show,” UNFI President Chris Testa said in a statement. “Many customers lined up products they wanted and pre-booked them and then came here to finalize the price and, in most cases, negotiate even better discounts on top of the base deals. That’s what makes our shows so valuable.”
UNFI’s UpNext team also hosted the UNFI’s Pitch Slam competition, which spotlights six up-and-coming brands. Jaju Pierogi, based near Boston, Massachusetts, earned this year’s top spot.
“Our background was not grocery, and we had no idea about all the shipping, promotions, logistics, how shelf resets are planned out to the millimeter, and just how much more complex this business is than most people realize,” said Vanessa White, co-founder of Jaju Pierogi. “Having UNFI as a partner to provide support, education, and guidance is so helpful, and the reporting we get and look at every single day helps us understand who’s pulling our product and what items they’re stocking, and that information is so helpful to our production and decision-making.”
Looking to offer a more inclusive supplier network, UNFI has established a fiscal year 2023 goal for three percent of UNFI’s annual product spend to be with diverse-owned suppliers, the Providence, Rhode Island-based wholesaler recently announced.
“UNFI account managers are constantly seeking to understand unique customer needs and proactively bringing strategic recommendations to the table,” said Guillaume Bagal, UNFI vice president of diversity and inclusion, in a statement. “Utilizing a vast network of diverse-owned suppliers not only advances our efforts to help create a more equitable food system, but by actively engaging and introducing diverse-owned suppliers to a broad range of UNFI customers, our retailers are able to unveil new sales opportunities and offer a wider selection of products to meet their consumer’s needs.”
With demand for private label operating at a continued high level, UNFI last month expanded its Wild Harvest organic produce to include over 40 new items.
With its easy-to-spot purple branding, Wild Harvest has seen significant growth as shoppers are seeking out private-label offerings.
“Reaction to the Wild Harvest organic produce rollout has been exceptionally positive and an excellent case study for how offering the right selection of products can help our customers grow and thrive,” said Dorn Wenninger, senior VP of produce at UNFI, in a statement. “We are fanatical about freshness and continue to utilize both technology and a talented team to better serve our customers and their shoppers, delivering quality produce with the confidence that comes with the Wild Harvest label.”
UNFI supplies fresh, branded and private-label products to more than 30,000 locations throughout North America, including independent retailers, supermarket chains, natural grocers, e-commerce companies and more.