Providence, Rhode Island-based United Natural Foods Inc. has implemented new technologies and processes to enable it to shorten certain delivery times by more than a day and harness the potential of data points to deliver fresher produce to its customers.
Due to these efforts, UNFI has grown its produce sales ahead of industry growth even as retail produce industry numbers move with inflation.
Removing over a day from the supply chain
To help UNFI deliver the fresh product to its customers, the company redesigned its produce sourcing strategy by consolidating its purchasing efforts and procuring many items from major Mexican suppliers. Product is transported from those farms to UNFI distribution centers through a McAllen, Texas, cross docking facility.
UNFI has also implemented commodity specific thresholds to accelerate the movement of product through its distribution centers and to retailers. The new processes have improved inventory turnover, reduced inventory shrink and has allowed UNFI to remove an average of more than a day from its supply chain during the past year.
“We know quality is the No. 1 driver for produce purchases, which is why we are fanatical about freshness at UNFI Produce,” said Dorn Wenninger, SVP of produce at UNFI. “In line with UNFI’s overall strategy to harness technology and data to serve our customers better, these initiatives allow us to remove over a day from our supply chain and provide a fresher product to our customers and their shoppers.
“Our team is already seeing the positive results of our efforts to deliver the freshest produce to our customers and I’m looking forward to continuing to evolve UNFI as a best-in-class produce organization.”
Using data to create a culture of quality
UNFI has recently implemented Share-ify, a cloud-based, tablet-enabled quality control program, which allows the company to synthesize data points to remove variability and help ensure its growers and suppliers are providing the freshest produce possible. The technology is in use at half of UNFI’s produce distribution centers and will roll out to the remainder by September.
To help manage the rollout, UNFI recruited industry veteran Susan Akin to serve as director of quality assurance, overseeing quality control programs.
“The power of the data we now have in our hands is immense. Our new technology updates provide greater transparency in our supply chain, better protecting our customers and helping us to provide them with the freshest, highest-quality produce available,” Wenninger said.
“But we’re not just investing in technology. With the addition of Susan and several other leaders to the team, we’re assuring that we have the expertise, focus, and leadership to excel in unleashing the power of data for our customers.”
Wild Harvest expansion
UNFI is also leveraging its expertise to provide a catalog of organic produce in a recognized brand, Wild Harvest. The purple branding makes it easier for both shoppers and store employees to recognize that products are organic.
The Wild Harvest organic bananas have performed well, and dozens of additional key items will be introduced throughout the remainder of 2022. Wild Harvest produce is available in hundreds of retailers across the country.
To learn more about UNFI produce, visit unfifresh.com/unfi-produce.