To offer fresher produce to its customers, United Natural Foods announced the implementation of new technologies and processes that allow it to shorten certain delivery times by over a day and take advantage of the full potential of UNFI’s data points. With these changes, the company said it had grown its produce sales ahead of industry growth, even as retail produce industry numbers move with inflation.
UNFI said it redesigned its fresh produce sourcing strategy by consolidating its purchasing efforts and procuring many items directly from major Mexican suppliers. Product is then transported from those farms directly to UNFI distribution centers via a McAllen, TX cross-docking facility, a produce best-in-class practice.
The company has also implemented commodity-specific thresholds to accelerate product movement through its distribution centers to retailers.
According to UNFI, the new sourcing model and supply chain processes have improved inventory turnover, reduced inventory shrink, and, most importantly, allowed the company to remove an average of over a day from its supply chain during the past year.
“We know quality is the number one driver for produce purchases, which is why we are fanatical about freshness at UNFI Produce,” said Dorn Wenninger, Senior Vice President 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. 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 recently implemented Share-ify, a real-time, cloud-based, tablet-enabled quality control program. It allows the company to synthesize tens of thousands of data points to remove variability and help ensure its growers and suppliers provide the freshest produce possible.
The technology is currently in use at half of UNFI’s produce distribution centers and will roll out to the remainder by this September. To help manage the rollout, UNFI recently 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,” says Wenninger. “Our new technology updates provide greater transparency in our supply chain, better protecting our customers and helping us provide them with the freshest, highest-quality produce. 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 said it is also leveraging its deep expertise to provide a broad catalog of organic produce in an easily recognized and trusted brand, Wild Harvest. The bold purple branding makes it easier for shoppers and store associates to identify which products are organic while offering the trust of the Wild Harvest label. The newly launched Wild Harvest organic bananas have performed well, and dozens of additional key items will be introduced throughout the remainder of 2022.