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United Natural Foods to Open New California DC

DAYVILLE, Conn. -- United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) said late last week that it plans to open a new state-of-the-art distribution facility in Rocklin, Calif. The company bought the new facility on March 1 and intends to move its current operations in Auburn, Calif. to Rocklin by late summer of 2005. The new building measures 487,000 square feet and will be the largest facility in UNFI’s nationwide distribution network.

The Rocklin facility, which is slated to become operational by September 2005, will serve as a distribution hub for customers in Northern California and neighboring states. UNFI currently has 17 distribution centers throughout the United States, employing a total of about 3.0 million square feet of space, the largest warehouse capacity of any distributor in the natural products industry.

"We are excited about the opportunity to further strengthen our distribution network and open a new state-of-the-art facility in Northern California," said UNFI chairman and c.e.o. Steven Townsend in a statement. "We remain focused on meeting the strong and growing consumer demand for natural and organic products, and are committed to being the highest-quality and most efficient distributor for the natural products industry. The Rocklin center will utilize innovative technologies to create greater efficiencies and productivity, and will ensure that our customers continue to receive enhanced product diversity and superior customer service.

"Consistent with our strategy to invest in our people, facilities, equipment, and technology to continue to drive efficiencies throughout our company, this facility will be a solid addition to our extensive nationwide distribution infrastructure and has the capacity to accommodate future growth," continued Townsend.

UNFI had been looking for "a larger facility to accommodate the company's growth in the region," v.p., c.f.o., and treasurer Rick D. Puckett told Progressive Grocer. The Auburn DC measures 260,000 square feet. Puckett said that among the "most advanced technologies" that UNFI would employ at the Rocklin DC would be those related to picking and truck routing.

According to the company, the distance between the new facility and its current center is about 20 miles. Pickett said it was possible that some employees might not wish to make the move, so that the company might hire some new workers, but they were likely to be in the "tens and twenties, not hundreds."

UNFI carries and distributes over 43,000 products to more than 21,000 customers nationwide. The company serves a wide variety of retail formats, among them conventional supermarket chains, natural product superstores, independent retail operators, and the food service channel.
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