NEW YORK (The Deal) -- United Natural Foods (UNFI) Chief Financial Officer Mark Shamber says the Providence, R.I.-based distributor of natural and organic foods is seeking acquisitions to build out its fresh food distribution business -- an area in which the industry is likely to see rapid growth over the next several years.
Consumers are not only demanding products with fewer artificial ingredients, they are also shopping for fresher foods, Shamber said at recent consumer conference in New York.
Acquisitions would help to expand United Natural's existing fresh food distribution businesses -- Tony's Fine Foods and Albert's Organics. The company bought Tony's, which delivers products such as cheese, deli meats and bakery items, just over 12 months ago for about $195 million.
Tony's gave United Natural a footprint for meat and cheese distribution in the Western United States, including Hawaii and Alaska. Albert's, the company's first fresh food business, delivers organic produce and has distribution centers in North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Colorado and California.
Shamber said that it would be difficult for the company to build those businesses in other areas organically or from scratch, noting that it is easier to acquire companies with trucks and distribution centers already in place, along with an existing clientele.
Shamber declined to comment on whether such companies as Dufur, Ore.-based Azure Farms, Atlanta-based Royal Food Service, or Ephrata, Pa.-based Four Seasons Produce could possibly be targets. But he did say that companies with the attributes of Four Seasons, which operates a fleet of 120 tractor-trailers and would likely generate a minimum of several hundred million dollars in revenue based on the size of its fleet, would be attractive candidates.