UNFI seeks to expand specialty business

UNFI seeks to expand specialty business

United Natural Foods Inc. hopes to continue to increase its offerings of specialty products in the next few years—primarily through acquisitions—as a means of picking up additional business  

NEW YORK—United Natural Foods Inc. hopes to continue to increase its offerings of specialty products in the next few years—primarily through acquisitions—as a means of picking up additional business, Steven L. Spinner, president and chief executive officer, said here Tuesday.

Speaking at the annual Retail and Consumer Discretionary Conference sponsored by Barclays Capital, Spinner said Providence, R.I.-based UNFI sees considerable room for growth by supplying specialty product lines—that may not necessarily be natural or organic—to independents and conventional operators. These items might include grain-fed proteins or specialty cheeses, he noted.

"We believe we can acquire companies and then build that part of the business to achieve higher growth rates among independents,” he explained. “That’s the channel where we test new products and added-value services, and we intend to focus on building that channel."

Spinner said UNFI also sees similar growth potential among larger conventional operators. “Most conventional chains buy specialty along with natural and organic products, and we need to have a broader offering in that space,” he noted. “If our SKU mix can serve a broader customer base, then we don’t have to compete only on the price side as we did a couple of years ago.”

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