United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) has named J. Alexander “Sandy” Miller Douglas CEO and a member of its board of directors, effective Aug. 9. Bringing a broad background and expertise in distribution, sales, marketing and e-commerce to his new role, Douglas was selected after an extensive search to replace Steven Spinner, who earlier revealed his impending retirement as CEO and from the board, both effective Aug. 9. Spinner will continue to provide management and board advisory services to UNFI, however, during a transition period of up to one year after his retirement.
Douglas was most recently CEO of Framingham, Mass.-based Staples Inc., leading the North American business-to-business distribution platform’s strategic transformation and shepherding the company through the COVID-19 pandemic. Before his tenure at Staples, Douglas was president of Atlanta-based Coca-Cola North America, overseeing the $10 billion revenue business, spanning all aspects of its consumer and business-to-business operations. During Douglas’ 30 years at The Coca-Cola Co., he was also global chief customer officer and held a range of leadership roles across sales and marketing.
“We are pleased to welcome Sandy as our new CEO and member of the UNFI board,” said Denise Clark, chair of the board’s nominating and governance committee and CEO succession planning committee. “He has a demonstrated track record leading large-scale transformation and growth through strategic, customer-focused action. His extensive experience, which is directly aligned with UNFI’s focus on growing the core business while investing in innovation, makes Sandy well suited to successfully drive the company through its next chapter of growth.”
“I am honored to join UNFI,” noted Douglas. “The company’s vision to transform the future of food has never been more important, and the opportunities in front of us are tremendous. Under Steve, UNFI has built a strong foundation for growth, and I look forward to working with UNFI’s exceptional leadership team, the 30,000 hard-working associates across this entire organization and our board to continue delivering innovative growth platforms that help make our customers stronger and our operations more successful.”
“It has been my great honor to lead UNFI,” said Spinner, who, after becoming CEO in 2008, led the company to acquire various businesses and introduce innovative products and services. “I am so proud of what this team, including Mr. Chris Testa, who will continue in his president role, continues to achieve as the largest grocery distributor in North America. With unmatched scale, product and service offerings, and a commitment to innovation and sustainability, I truly believe UNFI is positioned to deliver exceptional value for its customers and stakeholders going forward.”
Also effective Aug. 9, UNFI’s board has elected Jack Stahl as an independent chair. Stahl has held senior leadership roles throughout his career, most recently as president and CEO of New York-based Revlon Inc., and is currently lead director of Somerset, N.J.-based multinational pharmaceutical company Catalent Inc. He joined the board in June 2019 and has been chair of the compensation committee since September 2020.
“Since joining our board, Jack has made meaningful contributions and developed strong relationships,” said Clark. “Jack’s experience in executive and board leadership roles provide a strong foundation for his leadership of UNFI. The entire board looks forward to working closely with Jack and Sandy as we guide UNFI’s growth and support the entire team in their mission to transform the future of food.”
With Stahl’s appointment as an independent chair, Peter Roy will step down as the company’s lead director, a position he has held since 2019, but will remain an active member of the UNFI board. Additionally, Daphne Dufresne has been appointed the new compensation committee chair, also effective Aug. 9, replacing Stahl, who will continue to serve as a member of the committee.
Providence, R.I.-based UNFI delivers a wide variety of products to customer locations throughout North America, including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, e-commerce retailers and foodservice customers. The largest publicly traded grocery distributor in America, the company is No. 47 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.