This company's unity of purpose helps put groceries on the shelves. Unified Grocers is a leading wholesale cooperative grocery distributor that serves about 3,000 independent grocers, cash and carry outlets, and major grocery chains, mostly in the western US. The cooperative operates about a dozen distribution centers that supply its members and nonmember stores with more than 100,000 items, including meat, dairy goods, fresh produce, and general merchandise. It offers many national brands, as well as private labels including Cottage Hearth, Golden Crème, and Western Family. Unified Grocers boasts about 450 members with about 3,000 stores. The cooperative was formed in 1922 as Certified Grocers of California.
Unified Grocers' wholesale distribution provides products and services to member and non-members through its cooperative division, which sells products like dry grocery, frozen food, meat, eggs, general merchandise, and health and beauty care items. The division covers Southern California, Northern California, and the Pacific Northwest. Its Southern California Dairy division processes, pasteurizes, and bottles milk from its processing plant in Los Angeles. The plant also bottles water and a variety of fruit punch drinks. The Pacific Northwest Dairy division sells dairy products manufactured by third-party vendors. The diary products are then distributed by the Milwaukie, Oregon, and Seattle facilities to customers in the Pacific Northwest. Its Market Centre subsidiary sells ethnic, gourmet, natural, organic, and specialty foods. Unified International, a sales subsidiary, sells products and ships to non-member customers.
The cooperative has also an insurance business, which is comprised of two subsidiaries: Springfield Insurance Company and Springfield Insurance Company Limited. The businesses provide insurance and insurance-related products to the cooperative along to its member and non-member customers. Insurance products include workers' compensation and liability insurance policies (around 80% and 20%, respectively, of 2011 revenues). In addition to its core wholesale distribution business, Unified Grocers offers its customers such services as liability insurance, financing, and other support services. It also owns more than 20% of Western Family Foods, a distributor of private-label goods sold under the Western Family and Shurfine brands.
The cooperatives' net sales accounted for $3.8 billion in 2011 vs. $3.9 billion in 2010, a decrease of $73.3 million. The cooperative cited the loss of members and store closures affected overall net sales in 2011 by $62.8 million and $71.7 million, respectively. The cooperatives' wholesale distribution segment accounted for 99% of net sales. The cooperatives' 100,000 national and regional branded products accounted for some 88% of net sales within its wholesale distribution segment. The cooperatives' insurance segment, which primarily included premium revenues and investment income, accounted for the remaining 1% of net sales. The co-op's largest customer, cash and carry warehouse operator Smart & Final, accounted for 12% of sales in 2011.
Like other wholesale distributors, Unified Grocers focuses on keeping its operating expenses in check so that it can supply its customers at the lowest possible cost. The cooperative's efforts to improve efficiencies throughout its supply chain in part have involved investments in information technology. It competes with national distribution giants such as C & S Wholesale and Nash-Finch, as well as other regional co-ops such as Associated Food Stores and URM Stores. – less