Providence, Rhode Island-based United Natural Foods Inc. has announced that it doubled its year-over-year spend with diverse-owned suppliers during its 2022 fiscal year. In response, it has established a 2023 goal for three percent of UNFI’s annual product spend to be with diverse-owned suppliers.
UNFI’s supplier diversity team 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 an 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;
- 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. During a three-month supplier outreach effort, UNFI uncovered 167 new diverse-owned suppliers who either were not 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 VP 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.”
UNFI’s supplier diversity mission is to value and promote diverse-owned businesses and build an inclusive, competitive supply chain. It is committed to developing, fostering and retaining relationships with small businesses owned by disabled individuals, minorities, women, 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 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.
Lori Rodriques, UNFI supplier diversity manager, said, “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.”
“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.”
To learn more, visit unfi.com.