UNFI Ramps Up Supplier Diversity Investment

Wholesaler improves access for diverse-owned suppliers as it transforms procurement process
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
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One example of UNFI's supplier diversity commitment was a Pride Month collaboration showcasing LGBTQ+ certified suppliers.

United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) is doubling down on its commitment to working with more diverse-owned suppliers – literally. The wholesaler announced that it is doubling its year-over-year spend to build a broader, more inclusive supply chain with diverse suppliers, including small businesses owned by disabled individuals, minorities, women, veterans, veteran-disabled, and service-disabled veterans, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. For the 2023 fiscal year, UNFI set a goal of spending 3% of its product investment with diverse-owned suppliers.

[Read more: "New President of Fresh at UNFI"]

In addition to helping suppliers achieve equal access to opportunities across procurement, sales, merchandising and retail teams, UNFI created an ACT initiative focusing on three core areas: 

  • Applying supplier diversity into UNFI’s everyday business practice.
  • Committing to building connections with UNFI customers and simplifying navigation through the UNFI network.
  • Transforming the procurement process through greater transparency and accountability.

During UNFI’s 2022 fiscal year, the ACT initiative resulted in over $700 million of diverse supplier purchases by UNFI with more than 600 suppliers. The company also identified 167 new diverse-owned suppliers during a targeted three-month supplier outreach effort to existing suppliers.

“UNFI account managers are constantly seeking to understand unique customer needs and proactively bringing strategic recommendations to the table,” said Guillaume Bagal, UNFI’s VP of diversity and inclusion. “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.”

UNFI’s efforts to improve supplier diversity were outlined in the company’s recent Better for All report. That 12th annual report highlighted other areas of the wholesaler’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) plans and programs, including customer health and safety, energy efficiency, governance, associate safety and wellbeing, climate action, community development and waste reduction.

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. 49 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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