Wholesalers and Independent Grocers: Trusted Allies



Headquarters: Grand Rapids, Mich.
Estimated Revenue: $9.3 Billion
CEO: Tony Sarsam

In a bid to be an even better wholesale partner, SpartanNash is planning to launch a supply chain improvement initiative in its second quarter as the company continues to lap pandemic sales gains.

During a first-quarter earnings call this past June, Sarsam said that the initiative will focus on executing sustained improvements to supply chain operations across the company’s network.

“We’re just on the brink of making some of those investments,” he noted. “They are primarily around process. There will be some investments in IT upgrades, but a lot of the emphasis is going to be on strengthening our process and the way we go about that work. It will cover transportation, it will cover the way we think about our network, it will cover the way we think about inventory, and we’re creating a sales- and operations-planning process that’s strengthening the way we manage our warehouses overall, and thinking about how we make our warehouse labor more efficient and more effective in that space.”

According to Sarsam, effort will “be a multiyear endeavor, but it’s absolutely critical to what we do to have a strong business as being both efficient and effective in our overall supply chain.”

Additionally, SpartanNash has opened its inaugural micro-fulfillment center, in Caledonia, Mich., near the company’s Grand Rapids headquarters. The 55,000-square-foot facility can store up to 16,000 products and will be used to fulfill orders for several of the retailer’s banners throughout west Michigan.

According to SpartanNash, the new micro-fulfillment center will be able to support more than 1,000 daily orders from the retailer’s Fast Lane online grocery shopping solution. Orders will be picked and packed at the center and delivered either to the shopper’s home or to a store for curbside pickup. As well as expediting orders for customers, the facility will free up space in stores, leading to greater all-around efficiencies.


Headquarters: Providence, R.I.
Estimated Revenue: $6.7 Billion (Independent Sales Only)
Chairman and CEO: Steven Spinner* (Stepping Down July 31, 2021)

High on UNFI’s to-do list is a new growth strategy, revealed at the company’s virtual Investor Day event last June. The strategy, known as “Fuel the Future,” aims to increase market share through network optimization, stronger innovation and an enhanced customer experience.

“UNFI has built a tremendous customer base, we have amazing associates, and we’re truly excited by our Fuel the Future strategy, which will help guide the next chapter of our growth,” said Spinner at the event. “I’m proud of all the work and success we’ve had under our prior Build-out-the-Store strategy, which widely expanded our offerings and strengthened our core business. Our new plan builds off that work, elevating us to the next level and focusing our efforts on making our customers stronger, our supply chain better and our food solutions more inspired.”

Fuel the Future’s six pillars are:

  • Fulfill Power in Scale: optimizing the distribution network, maximizing capacity and simplifying operations with higher levels of standardization, and making investments in technology.
  • Unlock Customer Experience: expanding the company’s portfolio of brands, products and services while offering more tailored solutions to help customers grow.
  • Taste the Future: investing in existing, high-margin growth platforms such as Brands+, as well as developing new sources of revenue that further complement the core wholesale business.
  • UNFI Pride: focusing on people to deliver on the company’s core value of safety in the workplace, as well as enhancing the overall associate experience; embracing and growing diversity of background, thought and approach; and commitments toward climate change and food insecurity and injustice, among other priorities.
  • Retail Optimization: advancing the retail business through greater investment in store upgrades, e-commerce and digital platforms, combined with new sites that will contribute to growth.
  • Earn Results: driving sustainable growth and stakeholder value, with Fuel the Future helping deliver fiscal 2024 financial results that are expected to include sales of more than $30 billion; adjusted EBITDA of more than $900 million; and earnings per share (EPS) of more than $5.25.

On the succession front, last year Spinner revealed that he would step down on July 31, 2021. During the Investor Day this past June, Spinner noted that he was “extremely confident the next CEO will be fully aligned to UNFI’s culture,” and promised that the company would “have a successor named by late summer or early fall.” This would seem to indicate that Spinner’s eventual successor already works for the company and was heavily involved in development of the Fuel the Future strategy, with Chris Testa, currently president and CMO, a prime contender for the top spot.


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