United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) said sales in its supernatural channel increased 13.5% to $1.4 billion, offsetting slower rates of growth in other parts of the business, during the company’s first quarter ended Oct. 30. The supernatural channel’s double-digit gain in the first quarter is an acceleration from the channel’s 11.8% increase in UNFI’s fourth quarter ended July 31.
Whole Foods Market is the only retailer in the channel UNFI defines as “supernatural,” so the wholesaler’s financial reports offer a view of building inventories, and presumably sell through, of the wide range of products UNFI provides at Whole Foods more than 500 stores. UNFI’s supernatural channel is its third largest segment behind chains and independent retailers, but it was the fastest growing in the past fiscal year, advancing 7% to $5 billion and accounting for 18.7% of UNFI’s full year sales of $26.9 billion.
Sales in UNFI’s chain and independent retailer segments advanced 1.8% and 4.7%, respectively, in the company’s first quarter.
UNFI CEO Sandy Douglas said he was pleased with how the company has begun its fiscal year, noting that, “UNFI is navigating a challenging operating environment while simultaneously investing for the future, including improved distribution capabilities and new facilities, to better serve our customers.”
Total sales at the company increased 4.7% to nearly $7 billion, driven primarily by inflation and new business from existing and new customers. The company reported net income of $76 million compared to a slight loss of $1 million the prior year which included $16 million of one-time charges.
Looking at the full year, UNFI is forecasting sales in the range of $27.8 billion to $28.3 billion and profits of $221 million to $243 million.
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 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Meanwhile, Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods is No. 26 on The PG 100.