UNFI launches online wholesale digital marketplace

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Community Marketplace by UNFI expands supplier, retailer access to distributor’s offering

United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) has gone live with a business-to-business digital wholesale marketplace called Community Marketplace by UNFI.

Providence, R.I.-based UNFI said Wednesday that Community Marketplace enables thousands of emerging products not currently available at its distribution centers to be ordered on UNFI’s Easy Options website and shipped directly to retail customers nationwide. Boston-based Mirakl, whose Mirakl Marketplace Platform software-as-a-service (SaaS) powers the UNFI site, described the solution as North America’s first online wholesale food marketplace.

Through Community Marketplace, customers of all sizes will have access to more than 20,000 grocery and wellness items, fulfilled from UNFI’s distribution network without minimum order sizes, order frequency requirements or membership fees, UNFI said. Currently, hundreds of Community Marketplace SKUs are available via the Easy Options site, but more items will be added as more suppliers join the platform, according to the distributor. Easy Options is available to range of customers, including independent grocers, convenience stores, natural food and supplement stores, and restaurants.

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“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, referring to the surging demand for groceries triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. “With the scale, agility and operational efficiencies that businesses need to expand product offerings and meet consumer needs, Mirakl will be indispensable as UNFI looks to provide more hyperlocal products online faster to the retailers using our platform.”

For suppliers, Community Marketplace provides ready access to UNFI’s digital infrastructure to promote and sell their products to the distributor’s wide customer base. UNFI noted that approved suppliers control their inventory, order management, pricing and shipping charges while attaining trial for possible traditional distribution expansion in the company’s network. On the other side, retailers gain access to a broader selection of unique and local items, with flexible order sizes and the convenience of ordering from multiple sources online in one place, UNFI said.

The nation’s largest publicly traded grocery distributor, UNFI supplies more than 250,000 items to 30,000 retailers in the United States and Canada, including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, e-commerce retailers and foodservice providers.

“Access to the largest assortment of available items is an area of increasing importance to our customers, and Community Marketplace delivers on this need while giving brands an easy-to-use platform to gain the speed, scale, and agility to win in today’s marketplace,” according to Kraus. “By fully integrating Community Marketplace with our Easy Options website, we now have an industry leading tool for our customers to better connect with suppliers to provide their local communities with the widest variety of on-trend and emerging natural and conventional products.”

Besides increasing product assortment and improving the customer experience, the integration of Community Marketplace into Easy Options will bolster analytics and operational intelligence capabilities, Mirakl noted. UNFI’s expanded marketplace will streamline vendor on-boarding and open up opportunities for emerging and hyperlocal small- and midsize-business suppliers. On the back end, the digital marketplace will hone administration and technological processes to make operations more efficient for supplier management teams, the company said.

“The grocery and wholesale industry has been a focal point of the seismic digital and e-commerce evolutions of the past year, and leading companies like UNFI have been working overtime to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to eCommerce offerings,” commented Adrien Nussenbaum, co-founder and U.S. CEO of Mirakl. “As the first major North American food wholesaler to offer such a marketplace, we’re excited to help UNFI set the standard for marketplace operations, not just in grocery and wholesale, but across the e-commerce landscape.”

Strategic commerce agency McFadyen Digital served as the systems integration partner for the Community Marketplace by UNFI project, working with Mirakl to ensure on-time development and rapidly deploy the large-scale wholesale food marketplace, according to Mirakl.

“Through our partnership with Mirakl, we’ve been able to combine our industry expertise to deliver a world-class enterprise platform that helps marketplaces like UNFI’s launch, scale and evolve,” stated Tom McFadyen, president and CEO of Vienna, Va.-based McFadyen Digital. “We look forward to seeing how this new UNFI marketplace connects their communities and customers in new ways.”

Other big grocery players launching online marketplaces using Mirakl’s platform include The Kroger Co., Albertsons Cos. and Ahold Delhaize USA, the latter through its The Giant Company unit.

Originally posted on April 7, 2021 by Russell Redman, Supermarket News.