UNFI Exceeds Earnings Expectations, Paints a Rosy Picture for Fiscal 2022

That’s a wrap on fiscal year 2021 for United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), which reported its full-year and fourth quarter financial results this week. In the midst of fresh leadership and a new “Fuel the Future” growth strategy outlined a few months ago, the natural, organic and specialty food wholesaler announced strides in its work to boost market share through innovation, an elevated consumer experience and an optimized network.

UNFI reported net sales of $27 billion for its fiscal year ending July 31, a 1.5% increase. Adjusted EBITDA was up by nearly 11% and net income reached $149 million.

At the tail end of FY2021, the fourth quarter reflected the downshift in sales seen across many grocery organizations that couldn’t quite keep up with the pandemic-fueled sales of the prior year. UNFI’s net sales dipped slightly in the fourth quarter, down 0.5% to $6.7 billion. Net income also slid by 18.9% in that same period, as the company invested in restructuring, acquisition and integration as part of its transformational effort. Also impacting its financials: the company’s sizable retirement fund for associates.

On the plus side, UNFI’s fourth quarter performance beat Wall Street expectations for adjusted earnings per share, which were $1.18 compared to the consensus estimate of $0.81 per share.

J. Alexander “Sandy” Douglas, who stepped into the CEO role at UNFI in July, said that he is looking forward to the company’s next chapter, as the implemented growth strategies and investments begin to pay off.  “I see significant opportunity to accelerate the value we create with and for our customers as well as the opportunity to make our operations more effective and efficient, both leading to continued profitable growth within our estimated $140 billion addressable market,” Douglas remarked.

The wholesaler’s 2022 outlook reflects that optimism. UNFI projects net sales for its FY2022 to range between $27.8 billion and $28.3 billion, a 4% increase over the FY2021 at its midpoint. Net income is pegged to rise by 56%, the company says, to land between $221 million and $243 million. To help propel that growth, UNFI’s outlook includes an estimated $300 million reduction in capital expenditures.

Providence, R.I.-based UNFI delivers a wide variety of products to customer locations throughout North America, including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, e-commerce retailers and foodservice customers. The largest publicly traded grocery distributor in America, the company is No. 47 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.