A few weeks ago, I was visiting with a close friend in the industry who told me not to underestimate the volume of natural and organic products sold by Haddon House. I pressed him a bit and learned that he was unshakable in his conviction that they moved a lot of merchandise but was unable to share what stores they were selling it to. So this morning’s news that UNFI was purchasing Haddon House caught my attention a bit more than it might have a month or two ago.
Having had dozens and dozens of conversation with independent natural product retailers about their supply chains, I have never heard one of them say that they used Haddon House as either a primary or a secondary supplier. While I am sure that some do, my impression is that while Haddon House may account for a large volume of natural and organic business, it is primarily business into the conventional grocery channel. So, on that front, I don’t see this acquisition having a dramatic effect on rank and file members of the natural products industry.
This transaction may, however, open up some doors for new brands and items as UNFI and Haddon House become more and more integrated over time. Just as the UNFI acquisitions of Albert’s Organics, Select Nutrition and Millbrook brought new opportunities with expanded product offerings of perishables, supplements and clean specialty products to independents, the Haddon House deal may do more of the same. UNFI has shown the ability to provide offerings from its various subsidiaries to its retail customers. If they can do this with some of the quality ethnic, gourmet and private label items in the Haddon House product mix, it could help retailers broaden their offerings without the effort of adding new vendors. While I don’t see any immediate changes stemming from this purchase, its effects are ones for retailers keep an eye on down the road.