UNFI Natural & Conventional Show Delivers Solutions for Grocery Customers
United Natural Foods, Inc. wrapped up its Natural & Conventional Spring & Summer Show in Orlando, FL last week, hosting more than 1,000 brands and more than 2,000 customers. The show was the first of four major buying shows UNFI will deliver in 2023 and the first to bring together all natural and conventional products covering every store department and category. Shows are a valuable way UNFI utilizes its scale, insights and innovative offerings to help community grocers of all sizes differentiate, grow and succeed.
Value, Deals and New Products Drive Engagement
With food prices expected to continue growing in 2023 at ‘above historical average’ rates, retailers attending UNFI’s Orlando show came looking for value, special deals and new products to bring back to their shoppers.
“Our stores are located in primarily affluent communities and we’re seeing the trading down and smaller basket sizes across our stores, so the challenges consumers are facing are real,” said Jim McCaffrey, second generation family owner of the seven-store McCaffrey’s Food Markets operation in Bucks County, Pa. “UNFI shows are tremendously important for us from networking with our UNFI account team to partner meetings directly with vendors. This year we’re seeing the return of stronger promotional activity from suppliers and a return to more normalcy in deals and discounts. By attending the show and working with vendors on promotional deals, we’re able to pass along valuable discounts to our shoppers while still holding on to margin for our business.”
With greater than 170,000 square-feet of show space, UNFI’s Orlando show offered an ideal venue to introduce new products and line extensions, with the company estimating more than 1,500 new items available for retailers to discover. Additionally, there were valuable customer and supplier meetings helping lead to further special account deals.
“Customers came to find deals and suppliers came ready to give deals and gain market share and that’s a wonderful scenario for a buying show,” said UNFI President Chris Testa. “Many customers lined up products they wanted and pre-booked them and then came here to finalize the price and, in most cases, negotiate even better discounts on top of the base deals. That’s what makes our shows so valuable.”
UNFI Shows Help Emerging Brands Grow and Scale
UNFI’s UpNext team kicked off the show by hosting six up-and-coming brands in a Pitch Slam competition to spotlight their products to retailers. Jaju Pierogi, based near Boston, MA, earned this year’s top honor. Founded by two sisters using their grandfather’s recipes, Jaju Pierogi launched their first products in 2016 and have since expanded to using both traditional and creative flavors in polish-stye pierogies. UNFI’s UpNext program discovers and mentors emerging entrepreneurs and brands, guiding them through all aspects of grocery distribution and preparing them to best scale their business to support customer growth. As this year’s winner, Jaju Pierogi will enjoy greater retailer visibility along with a free table at a future UNFI buying show.
“Our background was not grocery, and we had no idea about all the shipping, promotions, logistics, how shelf resets are planned out to the millimeter, and just how much more complex this business is than most people realize,” said Vanessa White, co-founder of Jaju Pierogi. “Having UNFI as a partner to provide support, education and guidance is so helpful, and the reporting we get and look at every single day helps us understand who’s pulling our product and what items they’re stocking and that information is so helpful to our production and decision-making.”
Professional Services Gaining Traction
While not new to customer buying shows, UNFI Professional Services help independent grocery retailers succeed by increasing sales, decreasing costs and enhancing their customer experience. The Orlando show provided an opportunity to spotlight new and innovative solutions, including electronic shelf labels and scan and go technologies. UNFI Professional Services have historically been sought after by conventional grocery store operators. According to Testa, natural retailers are now beginning to understand the value UNFI services can deliver.
“Independent retailers want to have the same capabilities as big box stores, and our Professional Services offerings can help enable that,” said Testa. “Customers, especially from our natural accounts, have been hearing about our services for three years and they’re now starting to be curious. We saw significant interest at this show from natural customers interested in how we can help them with shelf management, how we can leverage insights to help them fix their mix, and how we can help with pricing and credit card fees. It’s been one of Professional Services’ best shows for new leads and I’m excited to see how we can help customers with these new opportunities.”
UNFI will have a large presence at the Expo West Natural Products show in Anaheim, CA March 7-11. The next exclusive UNFI show will be the Mohegan Sun Natural Holiday Show in Uncasville, CT June 7-8. For information on UNFI Shows, customers or suppliers can visit: UNFI or email firstname.lastname@example.org.