With efforts to create a more inclusive supplier network, United Natural Foods, Inc. announced that it doubled its year-over-year spend with diverse-owned suppliers during its 2022 fiscal year and has established a fiscal year 2023 goal for three percent of UNFI’s annual product spend to be with diverse-owned suppliers.
A robust supplier diversity network supports UNFI’s efforts to build a grocery supply chain that is better for all, delivering great products and services, more choices and fresh thinking to help customers differentiate within their local markets. UNFI’s supplier diversity team actively engages with diverse-owned suppliers to help them achieve equal access to purchasing and selling opportunities with corporate procurement, sales, merchandising and retail teams. To develop a more inclusive supplier network, UNFI has also created the ACT initiative which focuses 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; and
- Transforming the procurement process through greater transparency and accountability.
While still in the early stages, the ACT initiative resulted in more than $700 million of diverse supplier purchases by UNFI with more than 600 suppliers during the Company’s fiscal 2022 year. In addition, during a targeted three-month supplier outreach effort to existing suppliers, UNFI uncovered 167 new diverse-owned suppliers who either were not previously identified as a diverse supplier or were not identified and did not have certification.
“UNFI account managers are constantly seeking to understand unique customer needs and proactively bringing strategic recommendations to the table,” said Guillaume Bagal, UNFI vice president 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.”
A More Inclusive Supplier Network in Action
UNFI’s supplier diversity mission is to value and promote diverse-owned businesses and, by utilizing their perspectives and capabilities, build a more inclusive, vibrant and competitive supply chain. To bring this mission to life, UNFI is committed to developing, fostering and retaining relationships with small businesses owned by disabled individuals, minorities, women, veterans, veteran-disabled and service-disabled veterans and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
An example of this work occurred in 2022 when Stop & Shop’s supplier diversity and category management teams worked with UNFI to create a Pride month collaboration showcasing LGBTQ+ certified suppliers. Throughout the month of June, 400 Stop & Shop stores created Pride month end caps with products from eight LGBTQ+ owned suppliers, including Open Water, which creates ultra-purified, electrolyte-packed canned water in BPA-free aluminum packaging.
“Stop & Shop’s Pride endcap was awesome for Open Water as we were able to boost sales with existing fans and new shoppers alike and help them recognize us as an LGBTQ+ led brand, which is something we’re especially proud of. Kudos to Stop & Shop for spotlighting diverse and underrepresented founders in such a visible way,” said Jess Page, co-founder of Open Water.
“Our work to educate UNFI associates on diverse-owned suppliers combined with our efforts to consistently participate in matchmaking sessions between diverse-owned suppliers and retail customers has created wonderful success stories such as the one with Stop & Shop during Pride month,” said Lori Rodriques, UNFI supplier diversity manager. “We’re getting stronger by continuously getting better and by purposely expanding our diverse supplier network we’re creating more opportunities for diverse-owned suppliers to grow their businesses and retail success stories by working with UNFI.”
Suppliers interested in learning more about UNFI’s diverse supplier efforts can email firstname.lastname@example.org.