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UNFI fresh growth continues

Fresh offerings remain key to UNFI strategy even as acquisitions slow.

"We're very committed to being bigger and better in fresh," Steven L. Spinner, chairman and chief executive officer said during the third-quarter earnings call Tuesday.

Net sales for the third quarter of fiscal 2017 increased 11.1 percent, or $237.5 million, to $2.37 billion from $2.13 billion during the same period in fiscal 2016.

Net sales were lower than expected, driven by broad-based food retail softness, the rationalization of business in conjunction with margin enhancement initiatives and a lack of inflation.

But 7.1 percentage points of that growth came from four recent acquisitions, most of which focused on fresh categories. New businesses that are now integrated into UNFI distribution include Haddon House Food Products, Global Organic/Specialty Source, Nor-Cal Produce and Gourmet Guru.

While the natural foods distributor plans to pause acquisitions, Spinner noted management has learned a lot and remains interested on the M&A side of fresh natural protein, specialty cheese and imports.

Even as UNFI has grown produce offerings, including conventional sales, future M&A in this area is unlikely, Spinner said.

Growing its share in fresh, though, is a key go-forward strategy as this area's growth outpaces the natural industry's growth rate.

"I am pleased with our team's ability to execute and manage our business well through a deflationary and challenging retail environment," Spinner said via press release. "Over the past few months, we have worked diligently and made progress against our strategic initiatives, such as driving greater efficiencies across our internal operations, integrating our acquisitions and having our united sales team sell across all of UNFI's brands."

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