Clark County at Work: United Natural Foods, Inc.

By Mary Ricks, Columbian news assistant




Each week, The Columbian offers a brief snapshot of an interesting Clark County business. Send ideas to Mary Ricks: mary.ricks@columb...; fax 360-735-4598; phone 360-735-4550.

Business name: United Natural Foods, Inc.

General manager: Sam Braden.

Address: 7909 S. Union Ridge Parkway, Ridgefield.

What the business does: Sam Braden, general manager, said United Natural Foods is the largest wholesale distributor of natural/organic foods in the nation. The independent distributor also provides marketing and promotional tools, merchandising, category management and store support services for its customers.

What steps are you taking to building your business: Braden said his company is focusing on accuracy, timeliness and problem resolution to improve customer service. UNFI is also enhancing its technological capabilities.

Greatest challenge in running your business: Keeping up with sales growth and day-to-day operations with a heavy focus on change is the greatest challenge, Braden said. His company has been focusing on IT upgrades. Also, because UNFI has grown tremendously over the past 20 years by way of acquisitions, the company is trying to incorporate different business cultures, operating systems and policies into a one-company approach.

What's ahead for your business in the next six to eight months: Braden said UNFI will continue to focus on system refinements. The company is planning to teach public speaking and presentation skills to staff to build marketable skill sets and leadership abilities. UNFI also will target continued pursuit of excellent service to its customers.

Owner's business history or where were you before this position: Founder Michael Funk started the company in 1976 under the name Mountain People's Warehouse. It grew over the years via acquisition and mergers with Cornucopia Foods/Rainbow Foods to form UNFI in 1996. Since 1996, UNFI has acquired several key organizations including Albert's Organics, Millbrook Distribution and Honest Green.

Year established in Clark County: 2007.

Associates: 213

Telephone: 360-887-1125.