UNFI Touts Avenues for Emerging Brand Growth

Natural wholesaler showcases startups that succeeded at its selling shows and UpNext incubator program
Lynn Petrak
Senior Editor
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UNFI startups
UNFI is sharing examples of brand startups that have gained retail distribution and grown sales in recent years.

United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI), which already has a deep bench of brands, is making more room for rookies. The wholesaler continues to focus on helping emerging companies broaden their distribution within its network of customers, through its selling shows and its UpNext program that identifies brands primed for growth and geographic expansion.

John Raiche, the company’s EVP, explained the company’s emphasis on finding and showcasing offerings from fledgling suppliers: “UNFI works with some of the most dynamic and innovative local, regional, and national grocers in North America, which presents a tremendous brand positioning opportunity. Emerging brands can take advantage of UNFI’s account managers and sales team who have built long-term relationships with our customers, bringing them tailored programs, solutions, and enhanced value-added insights to strengthen suppliers’ marketing and merchandising efforts.”

The wholesaler recently spotlighted success stories of its work with young companies, including startup pizza brand Talia Di Napoli. After attending their first selling show in 2022, the company made new retail connections that impacted its growth. “We were in approximately six UNFI distribution centers with maybe 300 stores and we’re now in 12 distribution centers and have grown to over 800 retail locations,” reported CEO Edouard Freda.

UNFI also pointed to its work with plant-based, gluten-free smoothie maker Evive. Part of the UpNext Program, the company now has products in 13 UNFI distribution centers in four regions. “UNFI’s infrastructure, retailer relationships, and ability to get our product into consumers’ hands quickly will serve our go-forward strategy well as we continue on our growth path and deepen our support for the retailers we service,” remarked Cristina Peters-Domenech, Evive’s VP of U.S. sales.

UNFI has also shored up its commitment to working with diverse emerging brands. Earlier this year, the wholesaler announced that it is doubling its annual spend with diverse-owned suppliers

The next UNFI selling show – the natural holiday selling show –is slated for June 7 and 8 in Montville, Conn. Emerging brands can also learn more about partnering with UNFI through its supplier support site.

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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