Late last week Providence, R.I. based United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) announced a number of changes within the Company’s senior management team.  UNFI also disclosed that it has extended the employment agreement of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steven L. Spinner through July 31, 2021.

More interesting for our readers, the Company is also creating a new Senior Vice President, Brands role to further build its private brands and oversee UNFI corporate branding initiatives. This position will report to Chris Testa, President and Chief Marketing Officer.

“Our vision for industry transformation is taking hold as we continue to integrate and provide our customers with scale, services and differentiated distribution alternatives.  Development of our talent and succession planning are part of my and the UNFI Board’s responsibilities and we are confident the leadership changes being announced will serve as an enabler towards long-term success,” said Spinner.

Senior management appointments and changes are:

  • John Howard, who has served as Interim Chief Financial Officer since August 2019, has been appointed Chief Financial Officer, effective February 9, 2020;
  • Eric Dorne, who serves as the Company’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and oversees the Company’s Integration Office and Canadian Business, has been appointed Chief Operating Officer, effective March 8, 2020;
  • Sean Griffin, currently UNFI’s Chief Operating Officer, has announced his retirement effective July 31, 2020. Griffin will focus on continuing the Company’s business transformation as well as supporting other key business initiatives. He will remain with the Company as an advisor until November 2020;
  • Chris Testa, President, and Chief Marketing Officer, will take on additional responsibilities leading UNFI’s professional services, supplier services, customer care, and the Company’s Canadian division, and will report directly to Spinner.

Commenting on the leadership changes, Spinner said, “I am pleased to recognize the contributions of John, Eric, and Chris with these new appointments and expanded responsibilities. John quickly earned the respect of our finance and leadership teams while serving as our Interim CFO and he has a great vision for directional changes he is ready to implement as we continue to strengthen our finance organization. Eric has consistently delivered strong results in his nine years as part of the UNFI team and I have great confidence that he will continue to do so in his new role as COO.  Lastly, since joining UNFI a decade ago, Chris has established a track record of driving sustainable growth and I look for more of this in the future. I am excited to continue working with each of them in their new roles as we continue to position UNFI as the distributor of choice across the United States and Canada.”   

“I truly appreciate Sean’s leadership and dedication during his 10 years at UNFI, and particularly over the past 18 months as we have successfully integrated SUPERVALU at a faster pace than originally anticipated,” Spinner said. “Sean agreed to extend his time with UNFI following the acquisition of SUPERVALU and we charted our path forward with his guidance. Sean is a tremendous leader and great friend, and we all wish him all the best in his retirement.”

The Company also announced additional leadership news:

  • Paul Green, currently UNFI’s Chief Supply Chain Officer, will take on a new role as President, Fresh, where he will lead the Company’s meat and produce merchandising teams and will report directly to Spinner. Green will continue serving as Chief Supply Chain Officer (CSCO) until a successor is named.
  • Mike Stigers, currently CUB CEO and Executive Vice President, Fresh, will transition UNFI’s Fresh teams to Green, once he has completed his move to his new role. Stigers will focus on leading CUB and continuing the sale process for the Minnesota-based grocery retailer and will also report directly to Spinner.
  • The Company has searches underway for a new Chief Information Officer and Chief Supply Chain Officer, both of whom will report to Dorne.
  • The Company is also creating a new Senior Vice President, Brands role to further build its differentiated and exclusive private brands offerings and oversee UNFI corporate branding initiatives. This position will report to Testa.
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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.