Veteran supply chain executive Jim Gehr has joined United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) in a critical role overseeing the $21.4 billion food wholesaler’s network of 59 distribution centers and transportation fleet, as reported by Progressive Grocer sister publication Retail Leader.
Gehr joins UNFI as chief supply chain officer from DHL Supply Chain, where he spent 29 years, including the last six as president of the company’s Retail North America unit. In that role, Gehr oversaw operations for a network of 72 facilities that served more than 30 major North American retailers.
The supply chain challenges Gehr will manage at UNFI will be different, given the nature of the customers served and products offered. UNFI operates a network of 59 facilities that serve roughly 30,000 unique customer locations with an assortment 250,000 products across six major categories.
Gehr also assumes his new role as the COVID-19 crisis has further elevated the critical role of an efficient and agile supply chain to the world of food retailing. Gehr’s immediate priorities will be to focus on UNFI’s warehouse logistics, advancing its automation investments, distribution center expansions and network optimization.
“Jim is a highly regarded supply chain executive who brings operational excellence experience to UNFI along with a proven track record of building and motivating teams,” said UNFI COO Eric Dorne, to whom Gehr will report. “He has a history of creating and growing business opportunities, establishing sustainable processes, and developing a strong culture of continuous improvement that drives value throughout the supply chain and, ultimately, to customers. His unique experiences – from integrating emerging technologies to effectively utilizing data analytics – will enhance UNFI’s long-term operating model and help accelerate our innovation.”
Gehr fills a role previously held by Paul Green, who UNFI said earlier this year would be transitioning to the role of president, fresh, to oversee the company’s meat and produce business, reporting directly to Chairman and CEO Steven Spinner.
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, ecommerce retailers, and foodservice customers. The largest publicly traded grocery distributor in America, the company is No. 30 on PG’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.