- United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) has launched its digital marketplace focused on offering retailer clients a “hyperlocal” assortment sourced outside of its distribution center network, according to a company announcement.
- Community Marketplace is the first wholesale food marketplace in North America and will be accessible through UNFI’s existing e-commerce site, Easy Options. The marketplace is engineered by Mirakl, which has also helped build marketplaces for Kroger and Albertsons.
- The new marketplace comes at a time when grocers are investing in “endless aisles” strategies to boost assortment and meet growing online demand.
UNFI’s new marketplace, which it first announced during its earnings call last month, will expand the company’s assortment beyond its 250,000 core items to include emerging brands that are often difficult to accommodate through traditional sourcing methods, yet are increasingly in-demand from shoppers.
Community Marketplace is being offered through UNFI’s Easy Options ordering site, which focuses on order shipments for small and medium-sized retailers. The site handles onboarding for vendors with a streamlined process that caters to emerging companies and offers sales analytics as well as other business intelligence features.
McFadyen Digital, a strategic commerce agency, served as the systems integration partner alongside Mirakl.
"The past year has underscored the importance of expanding product offerings online and creating new ways to meet evolving consumer trends and demands," Tom Kraus, vice president of e-commerce at UNFI, said in a statement.
Spurred by the success of Amazon’s vast marketplace, retailers have scaled their own platforms offering expanded assortments from third-party vendors. Now grocers are starting to launch marketplaces, with a focus on small manufacturers eager to reach consumers. For the likes of Kroger, which launched its marketplace last year and plans to scale it further in the coming months, the digital marketplace offers expanded choices for millions of shoppers that have grown accustomed to grocery shopping online over the past year. It also offers a space where the company can survey emerging brands and scale up top performers.
UNFI offers distribution and professional services to more than 30,000 retailers in the U.S. and Canada, including Whole Foods. The company has focused on offering an expanded assortment of conventional and natural goods, and has seen sales increase over the past year as grocery demand has risen, with its digital sales rising 97% during the second quarter.