- United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) has announced it will now operate under a unified executive leadership team as it continues to integrate fellow wholesaler Supervalu, which UNFI acquired last year for $2.9 billion.
- Sean Griffin, who was named Supervalu CEO in September, will also take on the role of chief operating officer at UNFI — a role he previously held. Chris Testa, president of UNFI, has taken on the additional role of chief marketing officer, while Mike Stigers, formerly executive vice president of wholesale with Supervalu, is now executive vice president of Fresh for UNFI and CEO of Cub Foods. UNFI’s leadership team also includes CEO Steve Spinner; chief financial officer Mike Zechmeister; chief legal officer, general counsel and corporate secretary Jill Sutton; chief human resources officer Danielle Benedict; chief supply chain officer Paul Green; and chief administrative officer and chief information officer Eric Dorne.
- UNFI also announced it has named James Muehlbauer to its board of directors. Muehlbauer served as executive vice president, chief financial and administrative officer for The Valspar Corporation from 2013 to 2017. Muehlbauer also served in leadership roles with Best Buy from 2003 to 2013, including as executive vice president and chief financial officer. His appointment boosts UNFI’s board seats to nine.
UNFI says these leadership adjustments will help the company accelerate the integration of Supervalu and its various assets, which has proven troublesome so far. The appointments also signal UNFI’s desire to position its executive team for a post-integration future.
In being named chief operating officer, Griffin assumes the role he previously held with UNFI for eight years.
"Sean is the ideal candidate to assume his previous role as our chief operating officer where he'll influence and guide sales and operations across our entire organization," UNFI CEO Steve Spinner said in a statement.
Stigers, meanwhile, has shifted from the head of Supervalu’s wholesale division to a leadership role in UNFI’s all-important fresh division. Fresh foods are a specialty of Supervalu’s, and UNFI will no doubt hope Stigers can drive sales there. Stigers will also helm Cub Foods, the 78-store upper Midwest chain that UNFI hopes to sell as a single unit by the end of this year.
With Muehlbauer’s appointment, UNFI gains an executive with considerable financial acumen who also has experience with corporate integration. Valspar, his former employer, was acquired by Sherwin-Williams in 2017 — a move that, like UNFI-Supervalu, combined two companies with complementary assets, in this case paints and coatings.
Muehlbauer’s expertise could prove valuable to UNFI as it sorts through Supervalu’s distribution facilities, its longstanding inefficiencies and recent acquisitions while at the same time laboring to shore up sales.
Last month, UNFI cut its projected EBITDA for the year by more than 9%, noting it expects 2019 earnings to fall between $580 million and $610 million.
"It's more challenging than we thought it would be," Spinner said of the integration last month during UNFI's earnings call. "However, I think we would have still made the same decision. The strategic value is right on. We're committed to the process. The synergies are good."