SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
☒ ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended July 31, 2021
☐ TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from to
Commission File Number: 001-15723
UNITED NATURAL FOODS, INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
313 Iron Horse Way, Providence, RI 02908
|(Address of principal executive offices) (Zip Code)|
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (401) 528-8634
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
|Title of each class||Trading Symbol||Name of each exchange on which registered|
|Common stock, par value $0.01||UNFI||New York Stock Exchange|
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None.
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ¨ No x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
|Large accelerated filer||☒|| ||Accelerated filer||☐|
|Non-accelerated filer||☐|| ||Smaller reporting company||☐|
| ||Emerging growth company||☐|
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. ☒
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes ☐ No ☒
The aggregate market value of the common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant was approximately $1,489 million based upon the closing price of the registrant’s common stock on the New York Stock Exchange on January 29, 2021. The number of shares of the registrant’s common stock, par value $0.01 per share, outstanding as of September 23, 2021 was 56,445,293.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s definitive Proxy Statement for the Annual Meeting of Stockholders to be held on January 11, 2022 are incorporated herein by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
UNITED NATURAL FOODS, INC.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ITEM 1. BUSINESS
In this Annual Report on Form 10-K (“Annual Report” or “Report”), unless otherwise specified, references to “United Natural Foods”, “UNFI”, “we”, “us”, “our” or the “Company” mean United Natural Foods, Inc. together with its consolidated subsidiaries. We are a Delaware corporation based in Providence, Rhode Island and Eden Prairie, Minnesota. We conduct our business through various subsidiaries. Since the formation of our predecessor in 1976, we have grown our business both organically and through acquisitions, which have expanded our distribution network, product selection and customer base.
As a leading distributor of natural, organic, specialty, produce and conventional grocery and non-food products, and provider of support services to retailers in the United States and Canada, we believe we are uniquely positioned to provide the broadest array of products and services to customers throughout North America. We offer nearly 300,000 products consisting of national, regional and private label brands grouped into six product categories: grocery and general merchandise; produce; perishables and frozen foods; nutritional supplements and sports nutrition; bulk and food service products; and personal care items. We believe we are North America’s premier wholesaler with 57 distribution centers and warehouses representing approximately 30 million square feet of warehouse space. We are a coast-to-coast distributor with customers in all fifty states as well as all ten provinces in Canada, making us a desirable partner for retailers and consumer product manufacturers. We believe our total product assortment and service offerings are unmatched by our wholesale competitors. We plan to aggressively pursue new business opportunities to independent retailers who operate diverse formats, regional and national chains, as well as international customers with wide-ranging needs. Our business is classified into two reportable segments: Wholesale and Retail; and also includes a manufacturing division and a branded product line division.
Our Strategic Priorities
We are committed to executing our Fuel the Future strategy and its six strategic priorities that we believe will contribute to our future success:
1)Fulfill Power in Scale. Optimizing and maximizing the capacity of our far-reaching distribution network, simplifying operations with higher levels of standardization, and making investments in technology.
2)Unlock Customer Experience. Expanding our portfolio of brands, products and services while offering more tailored solutions to help our customers grow.
3)Taste the Future. Investing in existing, high-margin growth platforms such as Brands+, Services, eCommerce and Fresh, as well as developing new sources of revenue that further complement our core wholesale business.
4)UNFI Pride. Focusing on our people to deliver on: our core value of safety in the workplace, as well as continuing our unique culture and enhancing the overall associate experience; embracing and growing diversity of background, thought, and approach; and our bold commitment toward addressing climate change and food insecurity and injustice.
5)Retail Optimized. Advancing the retail business through greater investment in store upgrades, eCommerce, and digital platforms combined with new sites that we expect will contribute to growth.
6)Earn Results. Driving sustainable growth and stakeholder value, with the Fuel the Future plan helping deliver long-term financial results.
Through our Fuel the Future strategy, we are striving to make our customers stronger, our supply chain better, and our food solutions more inspired. We believe that we have been able to broaden our geographic penetration, expand our customer base, enhance and diversify our product selections, increase our market share, increase operating efficiencies in existing facilities and open new facilities in part through the acquisition of SUPERVALU INC. (“Supervalu”).
Our Commitment to Social and Environmental Responsibility
We Believe in Better for All
We are committed to being good stewards of our planet, our communities and our people through tangible action. In early 2021, we launched Better for All, our environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) plan aligned to three pillars: Building Better for Our World, Our Communities and Our People. Better for All focuses on six key priorities: climate action, waste reduction, food safety, food access, associate safety and wellbeing, and diversity and inclusion. To ensure progress against each of these areas, UNFI has established goals and commitments, which are set forth in our 2020 ESG Report, available on our website at www.betterforall.unfi.com. Our ESG Report and the contents of our Better For All webpage are not incorporated into this Annual Report.
Better for Our World
We continue to focus on reducing our environmental impact, conserving natural resources and promoting sustainability across our value chain and in our operations. We invest in the efficiency of our transportation fleet and warehouses, generate on-site solar power for operations use and focus on diverting waste from landfills. This year, we joined the U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions–businesses and organizations that have made a public commitment to reduce food loss and waste in their operations in the United States by 50 percent by the year 2030. We also added more than 53 solar-powered, all-electric refrigerated trailers to our California fleet. As part of our Better For All campaign, we have committed to develop science-based emissions reduction targets to be submitted for approval to the Science Based Targets initiative. These targets are being developed based on current climate science.
Better for Our Communities
We believe that freedom of food choice matters and we play a vital role in delivering safe, quality and nutritious food options to more tables across North America. We are working to increase access to better food, particularly for people in low-income and rural communities or vulnerable situations, through monetary and in-kind donations and operating retail stores in underserved areas. The UNFI Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, provides grants to nonprofit organizations working to build better food systems and nurture everyday health. We also encourage our associates to make a difference by volunteering in their communities, including through paid volunteer time off.
Better for Our People
The safety and wellbeing of our associates is a top priority. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have quickly and continuously adopted and added safety measures to protect our associates and the communities we serve. We are focused on fostering a culture of caring and safety; we are continuously striving toward zero injuries and accidents. We are also working to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in our workplace by creating and maintaining a culture of inclusion and empathy through open dialogue, effective associate training, and by honoring holidays and special events that speak to our associates’ identities.
Social and environmental responsibility is integral to our overall business strategy, and we believe these practices deliver significant value to our stakeholders, including our shareholders, associates, customers, suppliers and communities.
We maintain long-standing relationships with many of our customers. We serve approximately 30,000 unique customer locations, primarily located across the United States and Canada, which we classify into five customer types:
•Chains, which consists of customer accounts that typically have more than 10 operating stores and exclude stores included within the Supernatural and Other channels defined below;
•Independent retailers, which include smaller size accounts and include single store and multiple store locations, and group purchasing entities, but are not classified within Chains above or Other discussed below;
•Supernatural, which consists of chain accounts that are national in scope and carry primarily natural products, and currently consists solely of Whole Foods Market;
•Retail, which reflects our Retail segment, including the Cub Foods business and the remaining Shoppers locations, excluding Shoppers locations that are held for sale within discontinued operations; and
•Other, which includes international customers outside of Canada, foodservice, eCommerce, conventional military business and other sales.
We have been the primary distributor to Whole Foods Market for more than 20 years. We continue to serve as the primary distributor to Whole Foods Market in all of its regions in the United States pursuant to an amended distribution agreement. On March 3, 2021, we entered into an amendment to our distribution agreement dated October 30, 2015. The amendment extended the term of the distribution agreement from September 28, 2025 to September 27, 2027. Whole Foods Market is our only customer that represented more than 10% of total net sales in fiscal 2021.
Our Wholesale customers, among others, included the following for fiscal 2021:
•Whole Foods Market, a leading natural and organic food retailer in the United States and Canada; and
•Cash and Carry Stores, The Fresh Market, Coborn’s, National Co+op Grocers, Jerry’s Foods, Natural Grocers, Festival Foods, All American Quality Foods, Ahold Delhaize banners (Giant-Carlisle, Stop & Shop, Giant-Landover, and Hannaford), Lunds & Byerlys, Superior Grocers, Vallarta Supermarkets, Wegmans, Raley’s, Redner’s Markets, Niemann Foods, Inc., Dierberg’s, El Super Supermarkets, Sprouts Farmers Market, Kroger, Harris Teeter, Giant Eagle, Market Basket, Schnucks, Shop-Rite, Publix, Amazon.com, Inc. and Loblaws.
Our international net sales primarily reflect UNFI Canada, Inc. (“UNFI Canada”) and exclude sales transacted in U.S. dollars and shipped internationally, which is an even smaller component of our business. UNFI Canada represented approximately one percent of our net sales in fiscal 2021. We continue to seek to grow our Canadian operations.
We also continue to invest in technology and systems with the intent of growing our eCommerce business. This includes sales to eCommerce companies as well as business-to-business sales to non-traditional customers such as yoga studios or bakeries. We recently launched Community Marketplace by UNFI, a business-to-business digital eCommerce solution for emerging brands looking to expand distribution with UNFI customers. Through this virtual marketplace, suppliers gain immediate access to UNFI’s digital infrastructure to promote and sell their products to UNFI’s broad customer base while UNFI customers gain access to an even broader assortment of unique and local items with flexible order sizes and the convenience of ordering from multiple sources online in one place.
A key component of our historical growth has been to acquire distribution companies differentiated by product offerings, service offerings and market area. We believe the expanded product and service offerings from these acquisitions has enhanced and will continue to enhance our ability to acquire new customers and present opportunities for cross-selling complementary product lines. On October 22, 2018 (the “Supervalu acquisition date”), we acquired Supervalu for an aggregate purchase price of approximately $2.3 billion, which included the assumption of outstanding debt and liabilities. The acquisition of Supervalu accelerated our “build out the store” strategy, diversified our customer base, enabled cross-selling opportunities, expanded market reach and scale, enhanced technology, capacity and systems, and is expected to continue to deliver significant cost savings and accelerate potential growth. We believe that as a result of the Supervalu acquisition, we carry an unmatched product assortment that allows us to cross-sell natural products to conventional customers and conventional products to natural customers, all while reducing the number of weekly deliveries that each receives. Supervalu provided a robust suite of services that are now available to our natural customer base, services necessary to run their businesses and that provide opportunities to simplify and focus on their operations. We also believe the Supervalu acquisition provides additional scale to lower our overall costs as a percent of net sales. Our expanded scale and product assortment as a result of the Supervalu acquisition uniquely positioned us to continue to serve our customers and communities through the volume demands across the full spectrum of grocery products experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We organize and operate our Wholesale reportable segment through four U.S. geographic regions: Atlantic, South, Central and Pacific, each of which is led by a separate regional president responsible for product and service strategy, execution and financial results; and Canada Wholesale which is operated separately from the U.S. Wholesale business. Product and service categories include, grocery, fresh, wellness, private brands, eCommerce, food service and multi-cultural. This operating structure includes regional sales organizations and distribution center networks, which offer a combination of conventional and natural products to our customers as a consolidated supply solution. Territory managers in these regions sell our complete lines of products, which allows us to anticipate and identify sales opportunities that result from our customers having a single point of contact for all of our products and services.
We have established a national network of strategically located distribution centers utilizing a multi-tiered logistics system. The network includes facilities that carry slow turn or fast turn groceries, perishables, general merchandise and home, health and beauty care products. For financial reporting purposes, sales from our distribution centers to our own Retail stores are eliminated from of our Wholesale segment within Eliminations.
We offer Wholesale customers a wide variety of food and non-food products, and our own extensive lines of private label products. We also offer a broad array of professional services. As a logistics provider, efficiency is an important customer service measure. We optimize our facilities to implement leading warehouse technology, ranging from radio-frequency devices guiding selectors to mechanized facilities with completely automated order selection for dry groceries that help us deliver aisle-ready pallets to Wholesale customers. Deployment of continuous improvement methodologies within our supply chain is focused on delivering labor and cost efficiencies while also improving our ability to more effectively service our customers.
To maintain our market position and improve our operating efficiencies, we seek to continually:
•expand our marketing and customer service programs across regions;
•expand our national purchasing opportunities;
•offer a broader product and value add service selection than our competitors;
•offer operational excellence with high service levels and a higher percentage of on-time deliveries than our competitors;
•centralize and streamline general and administrative functions to reduce expenses;
•consolidate systems applications among physical locations and regions; and
•invest in our people, facilities, equipment and technology.
We maintain contracts with suppliers to procure their products. Our procurement process includes assessments of demand planning, pricing, seasonality and other factors. Inventory costs are determined when products are procured, and include vendor funds received and inbound freight, among other items. The gross margins we earn on sales to our customers are typically based on a percentage mark-up, or fee, on top of vendor listed base cost, which vary by customer, product type, vendor size, volume throughput, transportation methods and distances, among other factors. Net sales to customers are determined at the time of sale based on the then prevailing vendor listed base cost, and include discounts we offer to our customers. The differential between the procured cost, including vendor funds and inbound freight, as compared to the net sales price of these products, generate our gross margin.
Our Retail segment includes 74 Cub Foods and Shoppers retail grocery stores. Our Retail stores provide an extensive grocery offering and, depending on size, a variety of additional products, including general merchandise, home, health and beauty care, and pharmacy. We offer national and regional brands as well as our own private label products. Depending on the banner, a typical Retail store carries approximately 17,000 to 21,000 core stock-keeping units (“SKUs”) and ranges in size from approximately 50,000 to 70,000 square feet. We believe our Retail banners have strong local and regional brand recognition in the markets in which they operate. Our Retail continuing operations are supplied by our Wholesale distribution centers.
In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2021, we determined that two of the four remaining Shoppers stores in discontinued operations no longer met the held for sale criterion for a probable sale to be completed within 12 months. As a result, our Consolidated Financial Statements and financial information presented within this Annual Report reflect these two stores within the Retail segment operations within continuing operations, with prior periods having been revised to conform with the current period presentation. Throughout this Annual Report, references to Retail exclude previously disposed Shoppers stores, two Shoppers stores that are held for sale, as well as the Hornbacher’s, Shop ‘n Save and Shop ‘n Save East retail banners, which we acquired as a result of the Supervalu acquisition and previously disposed. For the periods in which we operated these stores, their results continue to be presented as discontinued operations.
Our Products and Services
Our Product Offering
Our extensive selection of products includes natural, organic, specialty, produce, and conventional grocery, and non-food products. We offer nationally advertised brand name and private label products, including grocery (both perishable and nonperishable), general merchandise, home, health and beauty care, and pharmacy, which are sold through our Wholesale segment to wholesale customers and our Retail stores to shoppers. We offer six main product categories: grocery and general merchandise; produce; perishables and frozen foods; nutritional supplements and sports nutrition; bulk and foodservice products; and personal care items.
Our owned brands portfolio is a collection of brands that offer high quality solutions for private label to our customers. ESSENTIAL EVERYDAY® is our leading national brand equivalent private label solution with 2,500+ items for departments throughout the store. It is complimented by SPRINGFIELD® as a regional solution and SHOPPERS VALUE®, which offers the budget conscious consumer quality alternatives to national brand. Our WILD HARVEST® brand offers a full range of products made with simple, wholesome ingredients across multiple categories, including pet foods. Our Field Day® brand is primarily sold to natural store / co-op retailers as a private label solution. Our category-specific brands, EQUALINE®, CULINARY CIRCLE®, ARCTIC SHORES SEAFOOD COMPANY®, BABY BASICS®, STONE RIDGE CREAMERY® and SUPER CHILL®, also provide national brand equivalent products at a competitive price.
Manufacturing and Natural Branded Products Businesses
Our Blue Marble Brands portfolio is a collection of national brands that offer organic, non-GMO, clean and specialty food. The WOODSTOCK® brand has been pioneering organic/non-GMO products for over 34 years and continues to launch innovation. TUMARO’S is our better for you wrap brand. MT.VIKOS®, KOYO®, ASIAN GOURMET®, MEDITERRANEAN ORGANIC®, and NATURAL SEA® are all niche specialty brands ranging from imported Greek feta cheese to organic Ramen.
Our subsidiary doing business as Woodstock Farms Manufacturing specializes in importing, roasting, packaging and distributing nuts, dried fruit, seeds, trail mixes, granola, natural and organic snack items and confections for our customers and in the Company’s branded products. Woodstock Farms Manufacturing sells items manufactured in bulk and through private label packaging arrangements with large health food, supermarket and convenience store chains and independent retailers.
We operate an organic (United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) and Quality Assurance International (“QAI”)) and kosher (Circle K) certified packaging, roasting, and processing facility in New Jersey that is SQF (Safety Quality Food) level 2 certified.
Our Professional Services Offerings
We offer a broad array of professional services that provide Wholesale customers with cost-effective and scalable solutions. These services include pass-through programs in which vendors provide services directly to our Wholesale customers, as well as services and solutions we develop and provide directly. Our services include retail store support, pricing strategy, shelf and planogram management, advertising, couponing, eCommerce, consumer convenience services, store design, equipment sourcing, electronic payments processing, network and data hosting solutions, and administrative back-office solutions. The sales and operating results for these services are included within Wholesale.
Our Marketing Services
We offer a variety of marketing services designed to increase sales for our customers and suppliers, including consumer and trade marketing programs, as well as programs to support suppliers in understanding our markets. Trade and consumer marketing programs are supplier-sponsored programs that cater to a broad range of retail formats. These programs are designed to educate consumers, profile suppliers and increase sales for retailers, many of which do not have the resources necessary to conduct such marketing programs independently. Set forth below are the services offered by each of these programs:
Consumer Marketing Programs
•Monthly, region-specific, consumer circular programs, with the participating retailers’ imprint featuring products sold by the retailer to its customers. We offer circular programs to our customers and vendors through negotiated pricing for the retailer, and also provide retailers with a physical flyer and shelf tags corresponding to each month’s promotions. We also offer a web-based tool, which retailers can use to produce highly customized circulars and other marketing materials for their stores called the Customized Marketing Program.
•Truck advertising programs allow our suppliers to purchase advertising space on the sides of our hundreds of trailers traveling throughout the United States and Canada, increasing brand exposure to consumers.
•Web and digital marketing services including websites, mobile applications and eCommerce capabilities.
Trade Marketing Programs
•New item introduction programs showcase a supplier’s new items to retailers through trials and discounts.
•Customer Portal Advertising allows our suppliers to advertise directly to retailers using the portal that many retailers use to order product and/or gather product information.
•Foodservice options designed to support accounts in that category.
•Monthly specials catalogs that highlight promotions and new product introductions.
•Specialized catalogs for holiday and seasonal products.
Supplier Marketing Programs
•Efficient Supplier Agreement is a customized supplier relationship program designed to address key needs of a select group of suppliers.
•ClearVue®, an information sharing program offered to a select group of suppliers designed to improve the transparency of information and drive efficiency within the supply chain. With the availability of in-depth data and tailored reporting tools, participants are able to reduce inventory balances while improving service levels.
•Supply Chain by ClearVue®, an information sharing program designed to provide heightened transparency to suppliers through demand planning, forecasting and procurement insights. This program offers weekly and monthly reporting, enabling suppliers to identify areas of sales growth while pinpointing specific opportunities for achieving greater profits.
•Supplier-In-Site (SIS), an information-sharing website that helps our suppliers better understand our Wholesale customers in order to generate mutually beneficial incremental sales in an efficient manner.
•Growth incentive programs, supplier-focused high-level sales and marketing support for selected brands, which foster our partnership by building incremental, mutually profitable sales for suppliers and us.
•Various marketing vehicles are offered that support the needs of our diverse customer base, while providing suppliers a cost effective means to market and promote their products.
We continually seek customer and supplier feedback to ascertain their needs and allow us to better service them. We also provide our customers with:
•trends reports in the natural and organic industry;
•product data information such as best seller lists, store usage reports and catalogs;
•assistance with store layout designs, new store design and equipment procurement;
•planogramming, shelf and category management support;
•in-store signage and promotional materials, and assistance with product display planning and set up;
•shelf tags for products; and
•a robust customer portal with product information, search and ordering capabilities, reports and publications.
Our “Certified Organic Distributor” certification covers 30 of our natural distribution centers in the United States, except for facilities acquired in connection with the acquisitions of Tony’s, Haddon, and Nor-Cal. Although not designated as a “Certified Organic Distributor” by QAI, the two Tony’s California locations are certified as Organic by the State of California Department of Public Health Food and Drug Branch, and Nor-Cal is currently registered with the California Department of Food and Agriculture Organic Program as an organic handler. In addition, our four Canadian distribution centers in British Columbia and Ontario each hold an organic distributor certification from either QAI or ProCert Canada.
We maintain a comprehensive quality assurance program. All of the products we sell that are represented as “organic” are required to be certified as such by an independent third-party agency. We maintain current certification affidavits on most organic commodities and produce in order to verify the authenticity of the product. Most potential suppliers of organic products are required to provide such third-party certifications to us before they are approved as suppliers.
We purchase our products from nearly 12,000 suppliers. The majority of our suppliers are based in the United States and Canada, but we also source products from suppliers throughout Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Australia and New Zealand. We believe suppliers seek to distribute their products through us because we provide access to a large customer base across the United States and Canada, distribute the majority of the suppliers’ products and offer a wide variety of marketing programs to our customers to help sell the suppliers’ products. Substantially all product categories that we distribute are available from a number of suppliers and, therefore, we are not dependent on any single source of supply for any product category. In addition, although we have exclusive distribution arrangements and support programs with several suppliers, none of our suppliers accounted for more than 5% of our total purchases in fiscal 2021.
We have positioned ourselves as one of the largest purchasers of organically grown bulk products in the natural and organic products industry by centralizing our purchase of nuts, seeds, grains, flours and dried foods. As a result, we are able to negotiate purchases from suppliers on the basis of volume and other considerations that may include discounted pricing or prompt payment discounts. Furthermore, some of our purchase arrangements include the right of return to the supplier with respect to products that we do not sell in a certain period of time. Each region is responsible for placing its own orders and can select the products that it believes will most appeal to its customers, although each region is able to participate in our company-wide purchasing programs.
Our Distribution Systems
We select the sites for our distribution centers to provide direct access to the markets we serve and configure them to minimize total operating costs. This proximity allows us to reduce our transportation costs relative to those of our competitors that seek to service these customers from locations that are often much further away. We believe that we incur lower inbound freight expense than our regional competitors because our scale allows us to buy full and partial truckloads of products. Products are delivered to our distribution centers primarily by our fleet of leased and owned trucks, contract carriers and the suppliers themselves. When financially advantageous, we pick up products from suppliers or satellite staging facilities and return them to our distribution centers using our own trucks. Additionally, we generally can redistribute overstocks and inventory imbalances between our distribution centers if needed, which helps to reduce out-of-stocks and to sell perishable products prior to their expiration date.
The majority of our trucks are leased and are maintained by third-party national leasing companies, which in some cases maintain facilities on our premises for the maintenance and service of these vehicles. We also have facilities where we operate our own maintenance shops.
We ship certain orders for supplements or for items that are destined for areas outside of regular delivery routes through independent carriers. Deliveries to areas outside the continental United States and Canada are typically shipped by freight-forwarders through ocean-going containers.
Our Focus on Technology
We have made significant investments in distribution, financial, information and warehouse management systems. We continually evaluate and upgrade our management information systems at our regional operations in an effort to make the systems more efficient, cost-effective and responsive to customer needs. These systems include functionality in radio frequency inventory control, pick-to-voice systems, pick-to-light systems, computer-assisted order processing and slot locator/retrieval assignment systems. At most of our receiving docks, warehouse associates attach computer-generated, preprinted locator tags to inbound products. These tags contain the expiration date, locations, quantity, lot number and other information about the products in bar code format. Customer returns are processed by scanning the UPC bar codes. We also employ a management information system that enables us to lower our inbound transportation costs by making optimum use of our own fleet of trucks or by consolidating deliveries into full truckloads. Orders from multiple suppliers and multiple distribution centers are consolidated into single truckloads for efficient use of available vehicle capacity. In addition, we utilize route efficiency software that assists us in developing the most efficient routes for our outbound trucks. As part of our “one company” approach, we are in the process of converting to a single national warehouse management and procurement system to integrate our existing facilities onto one nationalized platform across the organization. We continue to focus on the automation of our new or expanded distribution centers that are at different stages of construction and implementation. These steps and others are intended to promote operational efficiencies and improve operating expenses as a percentage of net sales.
Our Wholesale and Retail businesses operate in a highly competitive industry, which typically results in low profit margins for the industry. Our food distribution business directly competes with many traditional and specialty grocery wholesalers and retailers that maintain or develop self-distribution systems for the business of independent grocery retailers. We also increasingly compete with deep discount retailers, limited assortment stores and wholesale membership clubs. The primary competitive factors in the Wholesale business include price, service level, product quality, variety and other value-added services. In recent years consolidation within the grocery industry has resulted in, and is expected to continue to result in, increased competition, including from some competitors that have greater financial, marketing and other resources than us.
Independent retailers and smaller Chain customers represent a significant portion of our business and face intense competition from supercenters, deep discounters, mass merchandisers and rapidly growing alternative retail channels, such as dollar stores, discount supermarket chains, Internet-based retailers and meal-delivery services.
Our retail banners compete with traditional grocery stores, supercenters, deep discounters, mass merchandisers, limited assortment stores, and eCommerce providers. The principal competitive factors in grocery retail include the location and image of the store; the price, quality, and variety of the fresh offering; and the quality, convenience, and consistency of service. Strategies to react to competition vary based on many factors, such as the competitor’s format, strengths, weaknesses, pricing, and sales focus. Our retail stores have continued to respond to growing competition from online and non-traditional retailers by adding options and services such as online ordering, curbside pick-up, and home delivery.
Our operations and many of the products that we distribute in the United States are subject to regulation by state and local health departments, the USDA and the United States Food and Drug Administration (the “FDA”), which generally impose standards for product quality and sanitation and are responsible for the administration of bioterrorism legislation. In the United States, our facilities generally are inspected at least once annually by state or federal authorities. For certain product lines, we are also subject to the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, the Packers and Stockyard Act and regulations promulgated by the USDA to interpret and implement these statutory provisions. The USDA imposes standards for product safety, quality and sanitation through the federal meat and poultry inspection program.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act in the United States and the Safe Foods for Canadians Act in Canada have expanded food safety requirements across the food supply chain and, among other things, impose additional regulations focused on prevention of food contamination, more frequent inspection of high-risk facilities, increased record-keeping, and improved tracing of food. Products that do not meet regulatory standards and/or comply with these regulations may be considered to be adulterated and/or misbranded and subject to recall.
The Surface Transportation Board and the Federal Highway Administration regulate our trucking operations. In addition, interstate motor carrier operations are subject to safety requirements prescribed by the United States Department of Transportation and other relevant federal and state agencies. Such matters as weight and dimension of equipment are also subject to federal and state regulations.
Our facilities are subject to regulations issued pursuant to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act by the U.S. Department of Labor and similar regulations by state agencies. These regulations require us to comply with certain health and safety standards to protect our employees from recognized hazards. We are also subject to the National Labor Relations Act, which provides employees the right to organize and bargain collectively with their employer and to engage in other protected concerted activity.
Our facilities in the United States and in Canada are subject to various environmental protection statutes and regulations, including those relating to the use of water resources and the discharge of wastewater. Further, many of our distribution facilities have ammonia-based refrigeration systems and tanks for the storage of diesel fuel, hydrogen fuel and other petroleum products which are subject to laws regulating such systems and storage tanks. Moreover, in some of our facilities we, or third parties with whom we contract, perform vehicle maintenance. Our policy is to comply with all applicable federal, state, provincial and local provisions relating to the protection of the environment or the discharge of materials.
Our international business operations are subject to various laws and regulations regarding the import and export of products and preventing corruption and bribery (including the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act). We have implemented and continue to develop robust import/export and anti-corruption compliance programs and processes to comply with applicable laws and regulations governing our international business activities.
Human Capital Management
Our employees are critical to supporting our values and achieving our strategic vision. Through our UNFI Pride strategic pillar, we are striving to be an employer of choice. We are focused on associate engagement, empowerment and safety that allow for innovation and bringing best-in-class solutions to our customers and suppliers in an ever changing retail landscape, including new ways of work scheduling and productivity investments. In Fiscal 2021, we created Compensation Committee oversight for human capital management matters with a focus on associate wellbeing across a variety of measures.
As of July 31, 2021, we had approximately 28,300 full and part-time employees within continuing operations, 11,000 of whom (approximately 39%) are covered by 48 collective bargaining agreements, including agreements under renegotiation. We have in the past been the focus of union-organizing efforts, and we believe it is likely that we will be the focus of similar efforts in the future.
Attracting and retaining talent is one of our top priorities. Our goal is to differentiate ourselves in the market by offering unprecedented flexibility to associates in the way, and when and how they work. To reduce turnover, we have an emphasized focus on and commitment to our associates, their experiences as well as their continued engagement. We are committed to the continued support and development of our associates and provide access to robust leadership development programming, role-based training and other career development opportunities at every stage of an associate’s tenure with us. Designed to enhance the leadership capabilities of our people, the Emerge program for front-line leaders and the Evolve program for our mid-level managers invite participants from all departments to come together to learn and practice their management skills and identify opportunities to lead more effectively. The Elevate program for Director-level and above associates, as well as the Operations Leadership Academy for leaders in our distribution centers, work to solidify our talent pipeline and promote the success of the organization’s future leaders. In addition, we partner with key groups within the organization, such as Sales and Risk & Safety, to develop role-based training to drive greater productivity and safety. We also offer associates additional learning and career development opportunities that extend from skills-based training deployed electronically through our BetterU learning system, to mentorship programs and career development discussions and beyond.
Compensation and Benefits
Our compensation and benefits programs are designed to promote a culture of wellbeing and recognize our associates for their outstanding achievements and dedication to serving our customers and keeping them safe during even the most challenging of times. We are committed to offering market competitive pay programs which reward high levels of performance, and behaviors that challenge convention and drive company success. Our short-term incentive programs model the Company’s financial goals and are intended to align our eligible associates’ rewards with our financial success. Long-term incentives, including restricted stock units and performance awards, are designed to attract and retain innovative leaders and align their financial interests with that of our shareholders and other stakeholders. As part of our commitment to recognize our associates’ “whole self” – health, finances and overall wellbeing – we offer a comprehensive health and welfare benefit program to eligible associates providing a variety of medical, dental and vision options plus additional voluntary benefits like long-term disability and optional life insurance. Additionally, we provide to eligible associates a leading edge, no-cost wellness program, paid time off programs including paid parental leave, an employee assistance program, 401(k) plan, and a back-up childcare program.
Diversity and Inclusion
We pledge to promote equity, celebrate diversity, dismantle systemic racism, and support justice and inclusion for all. Our Board of Directors is diverse in gender and ethnic background, as well as having a broad range of experience, four out of ten directors are female, with two members identifying as African American and one member identifying as LGBTQ+. We recognize that innovation thrives when there is unity and respect for diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Additionally, we aim to foster a culture of belonging, equity and empathy through open dialogues, educational opportunities and by honoring the experiences and special events that speak to our associates’ many identities.
We built a diversity and inclusion team and created a diversity and inclusion strategy based on research, best practices and leadership commitment. This strategy included hiring a Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion and establishing a diversity council which has taken an active role in advocating for and celebrating diversity and inclusion, as well as overseeing belonging and innovation groups. We provided helpful diversity and inclusion information on our associate platforms including diversity and inclusion training. Additionally, we launched UCount, a campaign to encourage associates to self-identify and rolled out Real Talk, a series of conversations on various dimensions of diversity.
Creating a Safe Environment
Safety is at the forefront of everything we do. We continue to focus on the safety of our associates, customers and communities through the COVID-19 pandemic, with enhanced sanitation and increased safety measures. We also have invested in several initiatives, including the development and implementation of a new safety brand and pledge, Every Moment Matters, that is designed to foster a caring culture, the implementation of interactive and proven training programs, which are rolled out across our network, and enhanced safety auditing. Safety is one of our core values and a part of our Pride strategic pillar as we strive for zero injuries.
Generally, we do not experience any material seasonality. However, our sales and operating results may vary significantly from quarter to quarter due to factors such as changes in our operating expenses, management’s ability to execute our operating and growth strategies, demand for our products, supply shortages and general economic conditions. Our working capital needs are generally greater during the months leading up to high sales periods, such as the build up in inventory during the time period leading to the calendar year-end holidays. Our inventory, accounts payable and accounts receivable levels may be impacted by macroeconomic impacts and changes in food-at-home purchasing rates. These effects can result in normal operating fluctuations in working capital balances, which in turn can result in changes to cash flow from operations that are not necessarily indicative of long-term operating trends.
Our internet address is http://www.unfi.com. The contents of our website are not part of this Annual Report, and our internet address is included in this document as an inactive textual reference only. We make our Annual Report, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and all amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”) available free of charge through our website as soon as reasonably practicable after we file such reports with, or furnish such reports to, the Securities and Exchange Commission.
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
Our business, financial condition and results of operations are subject to various risks and uncertainties, including those described below and elsewhere in this Annual Report. This section discusses factors that, individually or in the aggregate, we think could cause our actual results to differ materially from expected and historical results. If any of the events described below occurs, our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially adversely affected and our stock price could decline.
We provide these factors for investors as permitted by and to obtain the rights and protections under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. You should understand that it is not possible to predict or identify all such factors. Consequently, you should not consider the following to be a complete discussion of all potential risks or uncertainties applicable to our business. See Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Forward-Looking Statements for more information on our business and the forward-looking statements included in this Annual Report.
Strategic and Operational Risks
Pandemics or disease outbreaks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and associated responses, may disrupt our business, including among other things, increasing our costs, impacting our supply chain, and driving change in customer and consumer demand for our products, and could have a material adverse impact on our business.
In connection with the outbreak of and measures implemented in an attempt to contain the COVID-19 pandemic (such as mandatory and voluntary closures and restrictions on, or advisories with respect to, travel, business operations and public gatherings or interactions), we experienced elevated demand for the products we distribute as consumption of food at home increased. This trend has persisted with a resurgence of infection rates and new variants with higher transmissibility, and with some consumers opting to stay home due to the perceived risk associated with COVID-19. While our independent customers have performed well through the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no assurance that increased volume at these customers will be sustained over the long-term. The increased wholesale customer and end-consumer demand may decrease relative to current levels if and when the need for social distancing, quarantine or isolation measures decreases and consumers fully return to school and work. We are unable to predict when and to what extent that may occur.
Although our business has benefited through increased demand, the impact of and associated responses to the COVID-19 pandemic has had and could continue to have an adverse effect on other aspects of our business and operations. For example, we have incurred, and expect to continue to incur, increased costs, including: labor costs resulting from overtime, paid sick leave, or leaves of absence; costs associated with safety measures throughout our facilities, including symptom scanning, testing, enhanced sanitation, social distancing practices, such as partitions, decals, pre-shift temperature screenings, and the provision of personal protective equipment to our associates; costs associated with evaluating and piloting additional safety measures; and other increased operating costs. In addition, we provided our associates with temporary state of emergency wage
increases and increased overtime to warehouse, driver, and in-store associates during the peak of the pandemic, and may decide to, or be required to, reinstitute that benefit in the future.
Our business could be negatively impacted by reduced workforces due to illness or other restrictions related to COVID-19; a shortage of qualified labor to support increased demand; any failure of third parties on which we rely, including our suppliers, contract manufacturers, third-party labor contractors and external business partners to meet their obligations to us, or significant disruptions in their ability to do so; or diversion of management’s attention, including if key employees become ill. We continue to experience higher than usual levels of out-of-stocks leading to reduced fill rates, which may result in higher costs, fees, or penalties to service our customers. We have experienced temporary suspensions of operations at one facility due to an elevated number of COVID cases, and we may experience future facility closures due to outbreaks of COVID-19, reduced workforce availability or government mandates. We could also experience disruptions to our supply chain through the shutdown of one or more of our distribution centers or warehouses, the inability to transport products to serve our customers or the inability of our vendors and contract manufacturers to supply products to us.
Our inventory and sales levels have stabilized to higher than pre-COVID-19 levels. If there were a rapid reduction in demand for the products we distribute, our results and cash flows may be negatively impacted if we are unable to monetize working capital maintained to support these higher levels. We experienced declines in certain of our sales channels as a result of changes in consumer purchasing habits related to COVID-19, including reductions in food service, bulk snacks, seeds and nuts, and international categories and we cannot be certain how consumer habits may continue to evolve. Further, the pandemic has accelerated the consumer shift to eCommerce and new ways to purchase food, including increased restaurant and other delivery options, which may negatively impact demand at our retail grocery customers, and which trends may continue beyond the cessation of social distancing practices as the impact of the pandemic lessens.
Any of the foregoing factors, or other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that are not currently foreseeable, could materially increase our costs, negatively impact our sales and damage our financial condition, results of operations, cash flows and liquidity position, possibly to a significant degree. Our efforts to manage and mitigate these factors may be unsuccessful, and the effectiveness of these efforts to a certain extent depends on factors beyond our control.
The ultimate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our business will depend on many factors, including, among others, the severity and duration of the pandemic and actions taken by governmental authorities and other third parties in response, the duration of social distancing, quarantine or isolation measures and whether additional waves of COVID-19 infections (as a result of mutations in COVID-19 virus or otherwise) will affect the United States and Canada, our ability and the ability of our suppliers to continue to operate manufacturing facilities and maintain the supply chain without material disruption, and the extent to which macroeconomic conditions resulting from the pandemic and the pace of the subsequent recovery may impact consumer eating and purchasing habits. Each of these factors involves uncertainty, and therefore, we cannot predict the duration and scope of any potential disruption or reasonably estimate the ultimate financial impact at this time.
We depend heavily on our principal customers and our success is heavily dependent on our principal customers’ ability to maintain and grow their businesses.
Whole Foods Market, a subsidiary of Amazon.com, Inc., accounted for approximately 19% of our net sales in fiscal 2021. We serve as the primary distributor of natural, organic, and specialty non-perishable products, and also distribute certain specialty protein, cheese, deli items, and products from health, beauty, and supplement categories to Whole Foods Market in all of its regions in the United States under the terms of our distribution agreement, which expires on September 27, 2027. Our ability to maintain a close, mutually beneficial relationship with Whole Foods Market is an important element to our continued growth.
The loss or cancellation of business from our larger customers, including due to increased self-distribution, closures of stores, reductions in the amount of products that our customers sell to their customers, or our failure to comply with the terms of our distribution agreement, where applicable, could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, or results of operations. Similarly, if Whole Foods Market diverts purchases from us beyond minimum amounts it is required to purchase under our distribution agreement, our business, financial condition, or results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
Our business is characterized by low margins, which are sensitive to inflationary and deflationary pressures, and intense competition and consolidation in the grocery industry, and our inability to maintain or increase our operating margins could adversely affect our results of operations.
The grocery industry is characterized by a relatively high volume of sales with relatively low profit margins, and as competition in certain areas intensifies and the industry continues to consolidate, our results of operations may be negatively impacted through a loss of sales and reductions in gross margins. The grocery business is intensely competitive, and the ongoing consolidation and evolving competitive landscape within the grocery industry is expected to result in increased competition, including from some competitors that have greater financial and other resources than we do. Consumers also have more choices for grocery purchases, including independent retailers that we do not supply and eCommerce solutions, which reduces the demand for products supplied by our wholesale customers. We cannot provide assurance that we will be able to compete effectively against current and future competitors.
Our ability to compete successfully will be largely dependent on our ability to provide quality products and services at competitive prices. Our competition comes from a variety of sources, including other distributors of natural and conventional products, as well as specialty or independent grocery and mass market grocery distributors and cooperatives, as well as customers that have their own distribution channels. Mass market grocery distributors in recent years have increased their emphasis on natural and organic products and are now competing more directly with our natural and organic product offerings, and they may have substantially greater financial and other resources than we have and may be better established in their markets. Natural and organic product offerings typically generate higher margins, but these margins could be affected by changes in the public’s perception of the benefits of natural and organic products compared to similar conventional products.
In addition, many supermarket chains have increased self-distribution or purchases directly from suppliers of certain items that we sell. New competitors are also entering our markets as barriers to entry are relatively low. For example, more natural and organic products are being sold in convenience stores and other mass market retailers and online through eCommerce than was the case a few years ago, and many of these customers are being serviced by other conventional distributors or are self-distributing. We also face indirect competition as a result of the fact that our customers with physical locations face competition from online retailers and distributors that seek to sell certain of the type of products we sell to our customers directly to consumers. We cannot assure you that our current or potential competitors will not provide products or services comparable or superior to those provided by us or adapt more quickly than we do to evolving industry trends or changing market requirements. It is also possible that alliances among competitors may develop and that competitors may rapidly acquire significant market share. Increased competition may result in price reductions, reduced gross margins, lost business and loss of market share, any of which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
The continuing consolidation of retailers, the growth of chains, and increased closures of grocery locations may reduce our profit margins in the future as more customers qualify for greater volume discounts, and as we experience pricing pressures from suppliers and retailers. Sales to chain customers generate a lower gross margin than do sales to our independents channel customers. Many of these customers, including our largest customer, have agreements with us that include volume discounts, which puts downward pressure on our gross margins as sales to these customers increase. To compensate for these lower gross margins, we must increase the dollar value of products we sell or reduce the expenses we incur to service these customers. If we are unable to reduce our expenses as a percentage of net sales, including our expenses related to servicing this lower gross margin business, our business, financial condition, or results of operations could be materially and adversely impacted.
If we are not able to continue to capture scale efficiencies and enhance our merchandise offerings, we may not be able to achieve our goals with respect to operating margins. In addition, if we do not refine and improve our systems continually or if we are unable to effectively improve our systems without disruption, including any information technology migration to a cloud environment, we may not be able to reduce costs, increase sales and services, effectively manage inventory and procurement processes, or effectively manage customer pricing plans. As a result, our operating margins may stagnate or decline.
Further, because many of our sales are at prices that are based on our product cost plus a percentage markup, volatile food costs have a direct impact upon our profitability. Prolonged periods of product cost inflation and periods of rapidly increasing inflation may have a negative impact on our profit margins and results of operations to the extent that we are unable to pass on all or a portion of such product cost increases to our customers. In addition, product cost inflation may negatively impact the consumer discretionary spending trends and reduce the demand for higher-margin natural and organic products, which could adversely affect profitability. Conversely, because many of our sales are at prices that are based upon product cost plus a percentage markup, our profit levels may be negatively impacted during periods of product cost deflation even though our gross profit as a percentage of net sales may remain relatively constant. To compensate for lower gross margins, we, in turn, must reduce expenses that we incur to service our customers. If we are unable to reduce our expenses as a percentage of net sales, our business, financial condition, or results of operations could be materially and adversely impacted.
Failure by us to develop and operate a reliable technology platform and the costs of maintaining secure and effective information technology systems could negatively impact our business, and we may not realize the anticipated benefits of our recent investments in information technology.
Our ability to decrease costs and increase profits, as well as our ability to serve customers most effectively, depends on the reliability of our technology platform. We use software and other technology systems, among other things, to receive, generate and select orders, to load and route trucks and to monitor and manage our business on a day-to-day basis. Failure to have adequate computer systems across the enterprise and any disruption to these computer systems could adversely impact our customer service, decrease the volume of our business, and result in increased costs negatively affecting our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
In our attempt to reduce operating expenses and increase operating efficiencies, we have invested in the development and implementation of new information technology. We are in the process of rolling out a national warehouse management and procurement system to convert our existing facilities into a single warehouse management and supply chain platform. In addition, we plan to remain focused on the automation of our new or expanded distribution centers that are at different stages of construction. We may not be able to implement these technological changes in the time frame that we have planned and delays in implementation (including delays resulting from the integration of Supervalu) could negatively impact our business, financial condition or results of operations. In addition, the costs to make these changes may exceed our estimates and will exceed the benefits during the early stages of implementation. Even if we are able to implement the changes in accordance with our current plans, and within our current cost estimates, we may not be able to achieve the expected efficiencies and cost savings from this investment, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations. Moreover, as we implement information technology enhancements, disruptions in our business may be created (including disruption with our customers), which may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
We face risks related to the availability of qualified labor, labor costs, and labor relations.
We have experienced, and may continue to experience, a shortage of qualified labor. Recruiting and retention efforts, and actions to increase productivity, may not be successful, and we could encounter a shortage of qualified labor in the future. Such a shortage could potentially increase labor costs, reduce profitability or decrease our ability to effectively serve customers. We are undertaking efforts to automate certain functions of our business. If we are unable to realize the anticipated benefits of our efforts to improve labor efficiency through automation or to increase productivity and efficiency through other methods, including as a result of delays in executing our business transformation and integration efforts, we may be more susceptible to labor shortages than our competitors. We have incurred increased costs to address a shortage of qualified labor in certain geographies, particularly with warehouse workers and drivers, including wage actions, sign-on bonus programs, and increased us of third-party labor.
We are subject to a wide range of labor costs. Because our labor costs are, as a percentage of net sales, higher than in many other industries, we may be significantly harmed by labor cost increases. In addition, labor is a significant cost of many of our wholesale customers. Any increase in their labor costs, including any increases in costs as a result of increases in minimum wage requirements, could reduce the profitability of our customers and reduce demand for the products we supply. Additionally, the terms of some legacy Supervalu collective bargaining agreements may limit our ability to increase efficiencies.
As of July 31, 2021, approximately 11,000 of our 28,300 employees (approximately 39%) were covered by 48 collective bargaining agreements, including agreements under negotiation, which expire through April 2027. In the event we are unable to negotiate reasonable contract renewals with our union associates or are required to make significant changes to terms that are unfavorable to us, our relationship with employees may become fractured, and we could be subject to work stoppages or additional expenses, which could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, or results of operations. In that event, it would be necessary for us to hire replacement workers or implement other business continuity contingency plans to continue to meet our obligations to our customers. The costs to hire replacement workers, employ effective security measures, and, if necessary, serve customers from alternative facilities, could negatively impact the profitability of any affected facility. Depending on the length of time that we are required to employ replacement workers and security measures these costs could be significant and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
We have in the past been the focus of union-organizing efforts, and we believe it is likely that we will be the focus of similar efforts in the future, and as we increase our employee base and broaden our distribution operations to new geographic markets, our increased visibility could result in increased or expanded union-organizing efforts. New contracts with existing unions could have substantially less favorable terms than prior to such expanded union-organizing efforts.
We are transforming our business and have engaged, and may continue to engage in, acquisitions and other strategic initiatives, and may encounter difficulties integrating acquired businesses and may not realize the anticipated benefits of our acquisitions, including, in particular, our acquisition of Supervalu.
We have engaged in, and could continue to pursue, strategic transactions and initiatives as we transform our business. Acquisitions present significant challenges and risks relating to the integration of acquired businesses.
Our ability to achieve the expected benefits of acquisitions will depend on, among other things, our ability to effectively execute on our business strategies, integrate and manage the combined operations, retain customers and suppliers on terms similar to those in place with the acquired businesses, achieve desired operating efficiencies and sales growth, optimize delivery routes, coordinate administrative and distribution functions, integrate management information systems, expand into new markets to include markets of the acquired business, retain and assimilate the acquired businesses’ employees, and maintain our financial and internal controls and systems as we expand our operations. Achieving the anticipated benefits of acquisitions also depends on the adequacy of our implementation plans and the ability of management to oversee and operate effectively the combined operations.
To realize the anticipated benefits of the Supervalu acquisition, our business must be successfully combined with Supervalu. We could fail to realize the anticipated benefits for a variety of reasons, including failure to leverage the increased scale of the combined company effectively, difficulties integrating information technology systems, failure to effectively coordinate sales, procurement, and marketing efforts to communicate the capabilities of the combined company, and failure to execute an efficient integrated distribution network incorporating our spectrum of product offerings.
The integration businesses that we acquire might also cause us to incur unforeseen costs, which would lower our future earnings and would prevent us from realizing the expected benefits of these acquisitions. Any of the businesses we acquired may also have liabilities or adverse operating issues, including some that were not discovered before the acquisition, and our indemnity for such liabilities may also be limited or nonexistent.
Additionally, our ability to pursue any future acquisitions may depend upon obtaining additional financing, which may not be available on acceptable terms or at all. To the extent that we seek to acquire other businesses in exchange for our common stock, fluctuations in our stock price could have a material adverse effect on our ability to complete acquisitions. If we are unable to integrate acquired businesses successfully or to realize anticipated economic, operational or other benefits and synergies in a timely manner, management’s resources could be diverted and our business, financial condition, or operating results could be materially and adversely affected, particularly in transition periods immediately following the consummation of those transactions.
We may have difficulty managing our growth, and our growth plans may not produce the results that we expect.
The growth in the size of our business and operations has placed, and is expected to continue to place, a significant strain on our management. Our future growth may be limited by strong growth by certain of our largest customers or our inability to optimize our network of distribution centers to serve our customers, retain existing customers, successfully integrate acquired entities or significant new customers, implement information systems initiatives, or adequately manage our personnel.
We have substantially expanded our distribution center network through the acquisition of Supervalu. If we fail to optimize the volume of supply operations in our distribution center network or do not retain existing business, excess capacity may be created. Any excess capacity may create inefficiencies and adversely affect our business, financial condition, or results of operations, including as a result of incurring operating costs for these facilities without sufficient corresponding sales revenue to cover these costs.
We cannot assure you that we will be able to successfully optimize our distribution center network or open new distribution centers in new or existing markets if needed to accommodate or facilitate growth or that certain of our distribution centers will not have, or continue to have, operational challenges. Our ability to compete effectively, maintain service levels, and manage future growth, if any, will depend on our ability to maximize operational efficiencies across our distribution center network, to implement and improve on a timely basis operational, financial and management information systems, including our warehouse management systems, and to expand, train, motivate and manage our work force. We cannot assure you that our existing personnel, systems, procedures and controls will be adequate to support the future growth of our operations. Our inability to manage our growth effectively could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
Further, a key element of our current growth strategy is to increase the amount of fresh, perishable products that we distribute. We believe that the ability to distribute these products that are typically found in the perimeter of our customers’ stores, in addition to the products we have historically distributed, will differentiate us from our competitors and increase demand for our products. We accelerated this fresh strategy with acquisitions. If we are unable to grow this portion of our business and manage that growth effectively, our business, financial condition, or results of operations may be materially and adversely affected, or we may not be able to fully realize the benefits of those acquisition.
Our wholesale distribution business could be adversely affected if we are not able to attract new customers, increase sales to or retain existing customers, or if our customers are unable to grow their businesses.
The profitability of our wholesale segment is dependent upon sufficient volume to support our operating infrastructure, which is dependent on our ability to attract new customers and increase sales to and retain existing customers. The inability to attract new customers or the loss of existing customers from a decision to use alternative sources of distribution, whether through a competing wholesaler or by converting to self-distribution, or due to retail closure or industry consolidation may negatively impact our sales and operating margins.
Our success also depends in part on the financial success and cooperation of our wholesale customers. These wholesale customers manage their businesses independently and, therefore, are responsible for the day-to-day operation of their stores. They may not experience an acceptable level of sales or profitability, and our revenues and gross margins could be negatively affected as a result. We may also need to extend credit to our wholesale customers. While we seek to obtain security interests and other credit support in connection with the financial accommodations we extend, such collateral may not be sufficient to cover our exposure. Additionally, in the past we have entered into wholesale customer support arrangements to guaranty or subsidize real estate obligations, which make us contingently liable in the event our wholesale customers default. If sales trends or profitability worsen for wholesale customers, their financial results may deteriorate, which could result in, among other things, lost business for us, delayed or reduced payments to us or defaults on payments or other liabilities owed by wholesale customers to us, any of which could adversely impact our financial condition and results of operations, as well as our ability to grow our wholesale business. In this regard, our wholesale customers are affected by the same economic conditions, including food inflation and deflation, and competition that our retail segment faces. The magnitude of these risks increases as the size of our wholesale customers increases.
Many of our customers are not obligated to continue purchasing products from us and larger customers that do have multiyear contracts with us may terminate these contracts early in certain situations or choose not to renew or extend the contract at its expiration.
Many of our wholesale customers buy from us under purchase orders, and we generally do not have written agreements with or long-term commitments from these customers for the purchase of products. We cannot assure you that these customers will maintain or increase their orders for the products supplied by us or that we will be able to maintain or add to our existing customer base. Decreases in our volumes or orders for products supplied by us for these customers with whom we do not have a long-term contract may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
We may have contracts with certain of our customers (as is the case with many of our chain customers) that obligate the customer to buy products from us for a particular period of time. Even in this case, the contracts may not require the customer to purchase a minimum amount of products from us or the contracts may afford the customer better pricing in the event that the volume of the customer’s purchases exceeds certain levels. If these customers were to terminate or fail to perform under these contracts prior to their scheduled termination, or if we or the customer elected not to renew or extend the term of the contract at its expiration or not to renew or extend at historical purchase levels, it may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations, including additional operational expenses to transition out of the business or to adjust our facilities and staffing costs to cover the reduction in net sales.
Changes in relationships with our suppliers may adversely affect our profitability, and conditions beyond our control can interrupt our supplies and alter our product costs.
We cooperatively engage in a variety of promotional programs with our suppliers. We manage these programs to maintain or improve our margins and increase sales. Recently, we have experienced a reduction in promotional spending and payment of slotting fees for new products by our suppliers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we may experience further reductions or changes in promotional spending (including as a result of increased demand for natural and organic products) which could have a significant impact on our profitability. We depend heavily on our ability to purchase merchandise in sufficient quantities at competitive prices. We have no assurances of continued supply, pricing, or access to new products and any supplier could at any time change the terms upon which it sells to us or discontinue selling to us.
The majority of our suppliers are based in the United States and Canada, but we also source products from suppliers throughout the world. For the most part, we do not have long-term contracts with our suppliers committing them to provide products to us. Although our purchasing volume can provide benefits, suppliers may not provide the products needed by us in the quantities or at the prices requested. For example, we have experienced, and continue to experience, higher than usual levels of out-of-stocks leading to reduced fill rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. These shortages have caused us to incur higher Operating expenses due to the cost of moving products between our distribution facilities in order to attempt to maintain expected service levels. We cannot be sure when this trend will end or whether it will recur in the future. We are also subject to delays caused by interruption in production and increases in product costs based on conditions outside of our control. These conditions include work slowdowns, work interruptions, strikes, or other job actions by employees of suppliers, short-term weather conditions or more prolonged climate change, crop conditions, product recalls, water shortages, transportation interruptions, unavailability of fuel or increases in fuel costs, competitive demands, raw material shortages, and natural disasters or other catastrophic events (including, but not limited to food-borne illnesses). As the consumer demand for natural and organic products has increased, certain retailers and other producers have entered the market and attempted to buy certain raw materials directly, limiting their availability to be used in certain supplier products. In addition, increased tariffs on imported goods, and any retaliatory actions by affected countries, may result in an increase in our costs for goods imported into the United States, and may reduce customer demand for affected products if the parties having to pay those tariffs increase their prices.
Further, increased frequency or duration of extreme weather conditions could also impair production capabilities, disrupt our supply chain, or impact demand for our products. For example, in the past, weather patterns have at times resulted in lower than normal levels of precipitation in key agricultural states, such as California, impacting the price of water and corresponding prices of food products grown in states facing drought conditions. In addition, wildfires in the West have impacted certain of our suppliers in the past. The impact of sustained extreme weather conditions is uncertain and could result in volatile input costs. Input costs could increase at any point in time for a large portion of the products that we sell for a prolonged period. Conversely, in years where rainfall levels are abundant, product costs, particularly in our perishable and produce businesses, may decline and the results of this product cost deflation could negatively impact our results of operations. Our inability to obtain adequate products as a result of any of the foregoing factors or otherwise could prevent us from fulfilling our obligations to customers, and customers may turn to other distributors. In that case, our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
Disruptions to our or third-party information technology systems, including cyber-attacks and security breaches, and the costs of maintaining secure and effective information technology systems could negatively affect our business and results of operations.
The efficient operation of our businesses is highly dependent on computer hardware and software systems, including customized information technology systems. Additionally, our businesses increasingly involve the receipt, storage and transmission of sensitive data, including personal information about our customers, employees, and vendors and our proprietary business information. We also share information with vendors. Information systems are vulnerable to not functioning as designed and to disruptions and security breaches by computer hackers and cyber terrorists, which risks may be more pronounced as associates continue to work from home.
Although we continue to take actions to strengthen the security of our information technology systems, these measures and technology may not adequately anticipate or prevent security breaches in the future or we may not be able to timely implement these measures and technology. Cyber-attacks are rapidly evolving and becoming increasingly frequent, sophisticated and difficult to detect. The failure to promptly detect, determine the extent of, appropriately respond to, and contain a significant data security attack or breach of our systems or any third-party systems used by us could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, or results of operations. We could also lose credibility with our customers and suffer damage to our reputation and future sales, including through negative publicity and social media. In addition, the unavailability of the information systems or failure of these systems or software to perform as anticipated for any reason, including a ransomware attack, and any inability to respond to, or recover from, such an event, could disrupt our business, impact our customers and could result in decreased performance, increased overhead costs and increased risk for liability, causing our business and results of operations to suffer.
As a merchant that accepts debit and credit cards for payment, we are subject to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (“PCI DSS”), issued by the PCI Council. Additionally, we are subject to PCI DSS as a service provider, which is a business entity that is not a payment brand directly involved in the processing, storage or transmission of cardholder data. PCI DSS contains compliance guidelines and standards with regard to our security surrounding the physical and electronic storage, processing and transmission of individual cardholder data. By accepting debit cards for payment, we are also subject to compliance with American National Standards Institute data encryption standards and payment network security operating guidelines. The cost of complying with stricter privacy and information security laws, standards and guidelines, including evolving PCI DSS standards, and developing, maintaining, and upgrading technology systems to address future advances in technology, could be significant and we could experience problems and interruptions associated with the implementation of new or upgraded systems and technology or with maintenance or adequate support of existing systems. Failure to comply with such laws, standards, and guidelines, or payment card industry standards such as accepting Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) transactions, could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
Increases in healthcare, pension, and other costs under the Company’s and multiemployer benefit plans could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
We provide single employer and multiemployer health, defined benefit pension, defined contribution benefits to many of our employees and, in some cases, former employees. The costs of such benefits continue to increase, and the extent of any increase depends on a number of different factors, many of which are beyond our control. These factors include governmental regulations such as The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which has resulted in changes to the U.S. healthcare system and imposes mandatory types of coverage, reporting and other requirements; return on assets held in plans; changes in actuarial valuations, estimates, or assumptions used to determine our benefit obligations for certain benefit plans, which require the use of significant estimates, including the discount rate, expected long-term rate of return on plan assets, mortality rates and the rates of increase in compensation and healthcare costs; for multiemployer plans, the outcome of collective bargaining and actions taken by trustees who manage the plans; and potential changes to applicable legislation or regulation. If we are unable to control these benefits and costs, we may experience increased operating costs, which may adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Additionally, certain multiemployer pension plans, and to a lesser extent, certain Company-sponsored plans, in which we participate are underfunded with the projected benefit obligations exceeding the fair value of those plans’ assets, in certain cases (for example, Central States Pension Plan), by a wide margin. Withdrawal liabilities from multiemployer plans could be material, our efforts to mitigate these liabilities may not be successful, and potential exposure to withdrawal liabilities could cause us to forgo or negatively impact our ability to enter into other business opportunities. Some of these plans have required rehabilitation plans or funding improvement plans, and we can give no assurances of the extent to which a rehabilitation plan or a funding improvement plan will improve the funded status of the plan. We expect that increases of unfunded liabilities of these plans would result in increased future payments by us and the other participating employers over the next several years. Any changes to our pension plans that would impact associates covered by collective bargaining agreements will be subject to negotiation, which may limit our ability to manage our exposure to these plans. A significant increase to funding requirements could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations, or cash flows. The financial condition of these pension plans may also negatively impact our debt ratings, which may increase the cost of borrowing or adversely affect our ability to access financial markets.
Our insurance and self-insurance programs may not be adequate to cover future claims.
We use a combination of insurance and self-insurance to provide for potential liabilities, including workers’ compensation, general and auto liability, director and officer liability, property risk, cyber and privacy risks and employee healthcare benefits. We believe that our insurance coverage is customary for businesses of our size and type. However, there are types of losses we may incur that cannot be insured against or that we believe are not commercially reasonable to insure. These losses, should they occur, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations. In addition, the cost of insurance fluctuates based upon our historical trends, market conditions, and availability. In response to the current market, we have also increased deductibles and increased percentages of loss retention above the deductible for certain of our policies, which could expose us to higher costs in the event of a claim.
We estimate the liabilities and required reserves associated with the risks we retain. Any such estimates and actuarial projection of losses is subject to a considerable degree of variability. Among the causes of this variability are changes in benefit levels, medical fee schedules, medical utilization guidelines, severity of injuries and accidents, vocation rehabilitation and apportionment and unpredictable external factors affecting inflation rates, discount rates, rising healthcare costs, litigation trends, legal interpretations, and actual claim settlement patterns. If actual losses incurred are greater than those anticipated, our reserves may be insufficient and additional costs could be recorded in our consolidated financial statements. If we suffer a
substantial loss that exceeds our self-insurance reserves and any excess insurance coverage, the loss and attendant expenses could harm our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
Our debt agreements contain restrictive covenants that may limit our operating flexibility.
Our debt agreements, including the loan agreement (the “ABL Loan Agreement”) related to our $2,100 million asset-based revolving credit facility (the “ABL Credit Facility”) entered into on August 30, 2018, as amended, and the term loan agreement (the “Term Loan Agreement”) related to our $1,950.0 million term loan facility (the “Term Loan Facility”) entered into in October 2018, as amended, and the indenture governing our unsecured 6.75% Senior Notes due October 15, 2028 (the “Senior Notes”) contain financial covenants and other restrictions that limit our operating flexibility and our flexibility in planning for or reacting to changes in our business. These restrictions may prevent us from taking actions that we believe would be in the best interest of our business if we were not subject to these limitations and may make it difficult for us to successfully execute our business strategy or effectively compete with companies that are not similarly restricted.
In addition, our ABL Loan Agreement, Term Loan Agreement, and the indenture governing the Senior Notes require that we comply with various financial tests and impose certain restrictions on us, including among other things, restrictions on our ability to incur additional indebtedness, create liens on assets, make loans or investments, or return capital to stockholders through share repurchases or paying dividends. Failure to comply with these covenants could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
The cost of the capital available to us and limitations on our ability to access additional capital may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
Historically, acquisitions and capital expenditures have been a large component of our growth. We anticipate that capital expenditures will continue to be, and acquisitions may be, important to our growth in the future. As a result, increases in the cost of capital available to us, which could result from volatility in the credit markets, downgrades of our credit ratings, our not being in compliance with restrictive covenants under our debt agreements, or our inability to access additional capital to finance acquisitions and capital expenditures through borrowed funds could restrict our ability to grow our business organically or through acquisitions, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
In addition, our profit margins depend on strategic investment buying initiatives, such as discounted bulk purchases, which require spending significant amounts of working capital up-front to purchase products that we then sell over a multi-month time period. Therefore, increases in the cost of capital available to us or our inability to access additional capital through borrowed funds at satisfactory economic terms could restrict our ability to engage in strategic investment buying initiatives, which could reduce our profit margins and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
We have experienced losses due to the uncollectibility of accounts and notes receivable in the past and could experience increases in such losses in the future if our customers are unable to timely pay their debts to us.
Certain of our customers have from time to time experienced bankruptcy, insolvency, or an inability to pay their debts to us as they come due. If our customers suffer significant financial difficulty, they may be unable to pay their debts to us timely or at all, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations. It is possible that customers may reject their contractual obligations to us under bankruptcy laws or otherwise. Significant customer bankruptcies could further adversely affect our revenues and increase our operating expenses by requiring larger provisions for bad debt. For example, we incurred significant bad debt expense in the second quarter of fiscal 2020 as a result of three customer bankruptcies. In addition, even when our contracts with these customers are not rejected in bankruptcy, if customers are unable to meet their obligations on a timely basis, it could adversely affect our ability to collect receivables. Further, we may have to negotiate significant discounts and/or extended financing terms with these customers in such a situation, each of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
During periods of economic weakness, small to medium-sized businesses, like many of our independents channel customers, may be impacted more severely and more quickly than larger businesses. Similarly, these smaller businesses may be more likely to be more severely impacted by events outside of their control, like significant weather events. Consequently, the ability of such businesses to repay their obligations to us may deteriorate, and in some cases this deterioration may occur quickly, which could materially and adversely impact our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
Impairment charges for long-lived assets could adversely affect the Company’s financial condition and results of operations.
We monitor the recoverability of our long-lived assets, such as buildings, equipment and leased assets, and evaluate their carrying value for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of such assets may not be fully recoverable. If the review performed indicates that impairment has occurred, we are required to record a non-cash impairment charge for the difference between the carrying value and fair value of the long-lived assets, in the period the determination is made. The testing of long-lived assets and goodwill for impairment requires us to make estimates that are subject to significant assumptions about our future revenue, profitability, cash flows, fair value of assets and liabilities, weighted average cost of capital, as well as other assumptions. Changes in these estimates, or changes in actual performance compared with these estimates, may affect the fair value of long-lived assets, which may result in an impairment charge.
We cannot accurately predict the amount or timing of any impairment of assets. Should the value of long-lived assets become impaired, our financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected.
Changes in the military commissary system or decreases in governmental funding could negatively impact the sales and operating performance of our military business.
Our Wholesale segment sells and distributes grocery products to military commissaries and exchanges in the United States. The commissary system has experienced material changes as the Defense Commissary Agency has looked to reduce the level of governmental funding required for the system, including to lower prices from suppliers and to offer its own private label products. The military food distribution industry already has narrow operating margins making economies of scale critical for distributors. These changes could have an adverse impact on the sales and operating performance of our military business. Additionally, our military business faces competition from large national and regional food distributors, as well as smaller food distributors, and the military commissaries and exchanges face competition from low-cost retailers.
Our leverage and debt service obligations increase our sensitivity to the effects of economic downturns and could adversely affect our business.
As of July 31, 2021, we had approximately $2.2 billion of long-term debt outstanding. Our leverage, and any increase therein, could have important potential consequences, including, but not limited to:
•increasing our vulnerability to, and reducing our flexibility in planning for and responding to, adverse general economic and industry conditions and changes in our business and the competitive environment and placing us at a disadvantage to our competitors that are less leveraged;
•requiring us to use a substantial portion of operating cash flow to pay principal of, and interest on, indebtedness, instead of other purposes, such as funding working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions, share repurchases, or other corporate purposes;
•increasing our vulnerability to a downgrade of our credit rating, which could adversely affect our cost of funds, liquidity, and access to capital markets;
•restricting us from making desired strategic acquisitions in the future or causing us to make non-strategic divestitures;
•increasing our exposure to the risk of increased interest rates insofar as current and future borrowings are subject to variable rates of interest;
•making it more difficult for us to repay, refinance, or satisfy our obligations with respect to our debt;
•limiting our ability to borrow additional funds and increasing the cost of any such borrowing; and
•imposing restrictive covenants on our operations, which could result in an event of default if we are unable to comply, and absent any cure or waiver of such default ultimately could result in the acceleration of the such debt and potentially other debt with cross-acceleration or cross-default provisions.
There is no assurance that we will generate sufficient cash flow from operations or that future debt or equity financing will be available to us to enable us to pay our indebtedness. As a result, we may need to refinance all or a portion of our indebtedness on or before maturity, however, we may not be able to do on favorable terms, or at all. Any inability to generate sufficient cash flow or refinance our indebtedness on favorable terms could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations. In addition, the upcoming transition away from the London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”), as a common reference rate in the global financial market, may adversely affect interest expense related to borrowings under our credit facilities and our interest rate swaps, which could potentially negatively impact our financial condition.
Changes in consumer eating habits could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
Changes in consumer eating habits away from natural, organic, or specialty products could reduce demand for our higher margin natural and organic products. Consumer eating habits could be affected by a number of factors, including changes in attitudes regarding benefits of natural and organic products when compared to similar lower margin conventional products or new information regarding the health effects of consuming certain foods. Although there is a growing consumer preference for sustainable, organic and locally grown products, there can be no assurance that such trend will continue. Changing consumer eating habits also occur due to generational shifts, including younger generations seeking new and different foods, as well as more ethnic, menu options and menu innovation. However, there can be no assurance that such trend will continue. If consumer eating habits change significantly, we may be required to modify or discontinue sales of certain items in our product portfolio, and we may experience higher costs associated with the implementation of those changes. Additionally, if we are not able to effectively respond to changes in consumer perceptions or adapt our product offerings to trends in eating habits, our business, financial condition, or results of operations could suffer.
Increased fuel costs may adversely affect our results of operations.
Increased fuel costs may have a negative impact on our results of operations. The high cost of diesel fuel can increase the price we pay for products as well as the costs we incur to deliver products to our customers, including costs of inbound goods from our suppliers. These factors, in turn, may negatively impact our net sales, margins, operating expenses, and operating results. To manage this risk, we have in the past entered, and may in the future enter, into commodity derivative contracts to hedge a portion of our projected diesel fuel requirements. To the extent we do not enter into commodity swap agreements, our exposure to volatility in the price of diesel fuel would increase relative to our exposure to volatility in periods in which we had outstanding commodity derivative contracts. We do not enter into fuel hedge contracts for speculative purposes. We periodically enter into forward purchase commitments for a portion of our projected monthly diesel fuel requirements at fixed prices. We also maintain a fuel surcharge program with certain customers, which allows us to pass some of our higher fuel costs through to those customers. We cannot guarantee that we will continue to be able to pass a comparable proportion or any of our higher fuel costs to our customers in the future, which may adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Disruption of our distribution network or to the operations of our customers could adversely affect our business.
Damage or disruption to our distribution capabilities due to weather, including extreme or prolonged weather conditions, natural disaster, fire, civil unrest, terrorism, pandemic, strikes, product recalls or safety concerns generally, crop conditions, availability of key commodities, regulatory actions, disruptions in technology, the financial and/or operational instability of key suppliers, performance by outsourced service providers, transportation interruptions, labor supply or stoppages or vendor defaults or disputes, or other reasons could impair our ability to distribute our products. For example, we have both distribution centers and retail stores in cities and states where civil unrest has led to extensive property damage. Further civil unrest and damage to our real and personal property, or our customers’ locations, could have an adverse impact to our business. To the extent that we are unable, or it is not financially feasible, to mitigate the likelihood or potential impact of such events, or to manage effectively such events if they occur, there could be an adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
In addition, such disruptions may reduce the number of consumers who visit our customers’ facilities in any affected areas. Furthermore, such disruption may interrupt or impede access to our customers’ facilities, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
Legal and Regulatory Risks
We are subject to significant governmental regulation.
Our business is highly regulated at the federal, state, and local levels and our products and distribution operations require various licenses, permits, and approvals, including:
•the products that we distribute in the United States are subject to inspection by the United States Food and Drug Administration;
•our warehouse and distribution centers are subject to inspection by the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Labor Occupational and Health Administration, and various state health and workplace safety authorities; and
•the United States Department of Transportation and the United States Federal Highway Administration regulate our United States trucking operations.
In addition, the various federal, state and local laws, regulations and administrative practices to which we are subject require us to comply with numerous provisions regulating areas such as environmental, health and sanitation standards, food safety, marketing of natural or organically produced food, facilities, pharmacies, equal employment opportunity, public accessibility, employee benefits, wages and hours worked and licensing for the sale of food, drugs, tobacco and alcoholic beverages, among others. For example:
Environmental, Health and Safety: Our operations are subject to extensive and increasingly stringent laws and regulations pertaining to the protection of the environment, including those relating to the discharge of materials into the environment, the disposal of food by-products, the handling, treatment, and disposal of wastes, maintenance of refrigeration systems, and remediation of soil and groundwater contamination. Compliance with existing or changing environmental and safety requirements, including more stringent limitations imposed or expected to be imposed in recently renewed or soon-to-be renewed environmental permits, may require capital expenditures. Additionally, concern over climate change, including the impact of global warming, has led to significant United States and international legislative and regulatory efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Increased regulation regarding greenhouse gas emissions, especially diesel engine emissions, could impose substantial costs on us. These costs include an increase in the cost of the fuel and other energy we purchase and capital costs associated with updating or replacing our vehicles prematurely. Until the timing, scope, and extent of such regulation becomes known, we cannot predict its effect on our results of operations. It is reasonably possible, however, that it could impose material costs on us which we may be unable to pass on to our customers.
Food Safety and Marketing: There is increasing governmental scrutiny, regulations and public awareness regarding food quality and food and drug safety. We may be adversely affected if consumers lose confidence in the safety and quality of our food and drug products. In addition, we are subject to increasing governmental scrutiny of and public awareness regarding food safety and the sale, packaging, and marketing of natural and organic products. Compliance with these laws may impose a significant burden on our operations.
Wage Rates and Paid Leave: Changes in federal, state or local minimum wage and overtime laws or employee paid leave laws could cause us to incur additional wage costs, which could adversely affect our operating margins. Failure to comply with existing or new laws or regulations could result in significant damages, penalties and/or litigation costs.
Foreign Operations: Our supplier base includes domestic and foreign suppliers. In addition, we have customers located outside the United States. Accordingly, laws and regulations affecting the importation and taxation of goods, including duties, tariffs and quotas, or changes in the enforcement of those laws and regulations could adversely impact our financial condition and results of operations. In addition, we are required to comply with laws and regulations governing export controls, and ethical, anti-bribery and similar business practices such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Our Canadian operations are similarly subject to extensive regulation, including the English and French dual labeling requirements applicable to products that we distribute in Canada. The loss or revocation of any existing licenses, permits, or approvals or the failure to obtain any additional licenses, permits, or approvals in new jurisdictions where we intend to do business could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
Pharmacy: We are required to meet various security and operating standards and comply with the Controlled Substances Act and its accompanying regulations governing the sale, marketing, packaging, holding, record keeping, and distribution of controlled substances. During the past several years, the United States healthcare industry has been subject to an increase in governmental regulation and audits at both the federal and state levels. For example, in 2019, the Company settled with the Drug Enforcement Administration alleged violations of the Controlled Substances Act relating to an administrative subpoena received by Supervalu that requested, among other things, information on the Company’s pharmacy policies and procedures generally, as well as the production of documents that are required to be kept and maintained pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act and its accompanying regulations.
The failure to comply with applicable regulatory requirements or make capital expenditures required to maintain compliance with governmental laws and regulations, including those referred to above and in Item 1. Business-Government Regulation of this Annual Report, could result in, among other things, administrative, civil, or criminal penalties or fines; mandatory or voluntary product recalls; warning or other letters; cease and desist orders against operations that are not in compliance; closure of facilities or operations; the loss, revocation, or modification of any existing licenses, permits, registrations, or approvals; the failure to obtain additional licenses, permits, registrations, or approvals in new jurisdictions where we intend to do business; or the loss of our ability to participate in federal and state healthcare programs, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations. These laws and regulations may change in the future. We cannot
predict the nature of future laws, regulations, interpretations, or applications, nor can we determine the effect that additional governmental regulations or administrative orders, when and if promulgated, or disparate federal, state and local regulatory schemes would have on our future business. We may incur material costs in our efforts to comply with current or future laws and regulations or due to any required product recalls.
In addition, if we fail to comply with applicable laws and regulations or encounter disagreements with respect to our contracts subject to governmental regulations, including those referred to above, we may be subject to investigations, criminal sanctions or civil remedies, including fines, injunctions, prohibitions on exporting, seizures, or debarments from contracting with the U.S. or Canadian governments. The cost of compliance or the consequences of non-compliance, including debarments, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations. In addition, governmental units may make changes in the regulatory frameworks within which we operate that may require either the corporation as a whole or individual businesses to incur substantial increases in costs in order to comply with such laws and regulations.
Product liability claims could have an adverse effect on our business.
We face a risk of exposure to product liability claims if the products we manufacture or sell cause injury or illness. In addition, meat, seafood, cheese, poultry, and other products that we distribute could be subject to recall because they are, or are alleged to be, contaminated, spoiled or inappropriately labeled. Our meat and poultry products may be subject to contamination by disease-producing organisms, or pathogens, such as Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella and generic E.coli. These pathogens are generally found in the environment, and as a result, there is a risk that they, as a result of food processing, could be present in the meat and poultry products we distribute. These pathogens can also be introduced as a result of improper handling at the consumer level. These risks may be controlled, although not eliminated, by adherence to good manufacturing practices and finished product testing. We have little, if any, control over proper handling before we receive the product or once the product has been shipped to our customers. Any events that give rise to actual or potential food contamination, drug contamination or food-borne illness or injury, or events that give rise to claims that our products are not of the quality or composition claimed to be, may result in product liability claims from individuals, consumers and governmental agencies, penalties and enforcement actions from government agencies, a loss of consumer confidence, harm to our reputation and could cause production and delivery disruptions, which may adversely affect our financial condition or results of operations. While we generally seek contractual indemnification and insurance coverage from our suppliers, we might not be able to recover these significant costs from our suppliers. We may be subject to liability, which could be substantial, because of actual or alleged contamination in products manufactured or sold by us, including products sold by companies before we acquired them.
In addition, if we were to manufacture or distribute foods that are or are perceived to be unsafe, contaminated, or defective, it may be necessary for us to recall such products, or we may recall products that we determine do not satisfy our quality standards. Any resulting product recalls could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations. We have, and the companies we have acquired have had, liability insurance with respect to product liability claims. This insurance may not continue to be available at a reasonable cost or at all, and may not be adequate to cover product liability claims against us or against companies we have acquired. We generally seek contractual indemnification from manufacturers, but any such indemnification is limited, as a practical matter, to the creditworthiness of the indemnifying party. If we do not have adequate insurance or contractual indemnification available, product liability claims and costs associated with product recalls, including a loss of business, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
We may be unable to adequately protect our intellectual property rights, which could harm our business.
We rely on a combination of trademark, service mark trade secret, copyright, and domain name law and internal procedures and nondisclosure agreements to protect our intellectual property. We believe our trademarks, private label products, and domain names are valuable assets. However, our intellectual property rights may not be sufficient to distinguish our products and services from those of our competitors and to provide us with a competitive advantage. From time to time, third parties may use names, logos, and slogans similar to ours, may apply to register trademarks or domain names similar to ours, and may infringe or otherwise violate our intellectual property rights. Our intellectual property rights may not be successfully asserted against such third parties or may be invalidated, circumvented, or challenged. Asserting or defending our intellectual property rights could be time consuming and costly and could distract management’s attention and resources. If we are unable to prevent our competitors from using names, logos, slogans, and domain names similar to ours, consumer confusion could result, the perception of our brands and products could be negatively affected, and our sales and profitability could suffer as a result. In addition, if our wholesale customers receive negative publicity or fail to maintain the quality of the goods and services used in connection with our trademarks, our rights to, and the value of, our trademarks could potentially be harmed. Failure to protect our proprietary information could also have an adverse effect on our business.
We may also be subject to claims that our activities or the products we sell infringe, misappropriate, or otherwise violate the intellectual property rights of others. Any such claims can be time consuming and costly to defend and may distract management’s attention and resources, even if the claims are without merit, and may prevent us from using our trademarks in certain geographies or in connection with certain products and services, any of which could adversely affect our business.
ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
ITEM 2. PROPERTIES
We maintained 57 distribution centers and warehouses at July 31, 2021, which were utilized by our Wholesale segment and our other operating segments. The following table shows our dry and cold storage distribution and warehouse facilities and their associated owned and leased square footage occupied as of July 31, 2021:
|Owned Square Footage||Leased Square Footage||Total Square Footage |
| ||(in thousands)|
|1,866 ||— ||1,866 |
|Allentown, Pennsylvania||— ||1,327 ||1,327 |
|Stockton, California||— ||1,290 ||1,290 |
|1,249 ||— ||1,249 |
|Riverside, California||— ||1,175 ||1,175 |
|Centralia, Washington||— ||1,155 ||1,155 |
|York, Pennsylvania||— ||1,039 ||1,039 |
|Joliet, Illinois||— ||988 ||988 |
|Green Bay, Wisconsin||— ||980 ||980 |
|Champaign, Illinois||— ||910 ||910 |
|Harrisburg, Pennsylvania||— ||883 ||883 |
Fort Wayne, Indiana(2)
|871 ||— ||871 |
|Commerce, California||— ||858 ||858 |
|Pompano Beach, Florida||— ||799 ||799 |
|779 ||— ||779 |
|758 ||— ||758 |
|Sarasota, Florida||— ||743 ||743 |
Montgomery, New York(2)
|500 ||180 ||680 |
|679 ||— ||679 |
|389 ||259 ||648 |
|Moreno Valley, California||— ||613 ||613 |
|Lancaster, Texas||— ||590 ||590 |
|465 ||105 ||570 |
|Indianola, Mississippi||543 ||— ||543 |
|Aurora, Colorado||— ||529 ||529 |
|469 ||— ||469 |
Stevens Point, Wisconsin(2)
|314 ||146 ||460 |
|447 ||— ||447 |
|442 ||— ||442 |
|Carlisle, Pennsylvania||— ||423 ||423 |
Howell Township, New Jersey(2)
|397 ||— ||397 |
Chesterfield, New Hampshire(2)
|300 ||69 ||369 |
Richburg, South Carolina(2)
|342 ||— ||342 |
|Owned Square Footage||Leased Square Footage||Total Square Footage |
| ||(in thousands)|
Fargo, North Dakota(2)
|336 ||— ||336 |
|Oglesby, Illinois||— ||325 ||325 |
|317 ||317 |
|308 ||— ||308 |
|307 ||— ||307 |
|Santa Fe Springs, California||— ||298 ||298 |
|Iowa City, Iowa||271 ||20 ||291 |
West Sacramento, California(2)
|251 ||— ||251 |
Bismarck, North Dakota(2)
|244 ||— ||244 |
|Anniston, Alabama||— ||231 ||231 |
|Yuba City, California||— ||224 ||224 |
|220 ||— ||220 |
|Vaughan, Ontario||— ||180 ||180 |
|Edison, New Jersey||— ||178 ||178 |
|West Newell, Illinois||155 ||— ||155 |
|Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||— ||100 ||100 |
|Richmond, British Columbia||— ||96 ||96 |
|Roseville, California||— ||86 ||86 |
West Sacramento, California(2)
|85 ||— ||85 |
|Logan Township, New Jersey||— ||70 ||70 |
|Burnaby, British Columbia||— ||41 ||41 |
|Fife, Washington||— ||39 ||39 |
|Montreal, Quebec||— ||31 ||31 |
|Truckee, California||— ||8 ||8 |
|Total||13,304 ||16,988 ||30,292 |
(1)Distribution centers and warehouses as presented here reflect the location of the main distribution center campus and warehouse combined with their related offsite storage used to supply customers out of these locations.
(2)These distribution centers secure our Term Loan Facility.
The following table summarizes continuing operations retail stores utilized by our Retail segment as of July 31, 2021:
|Retail Banner||Number of Stores||Owned Square Footage||Leased Square Footage||Total Square Footage|
|(square footage in thousands)|
|53 ||1,134 ||2,514 ||3,648 |
|21 ||— ||1,263 ||1,263 |
|Total||74 ||1,134 ||3,777 ||4,911 |
(1)Cub Foods stores include stores in which we have a controlling ownership interest, and excludes 33 franchised Cub Foods stores in which we have a minority interest or no ownership interest.
(2)Shoppers retail stores exclude two Shoppers stores classified as discontinued operations in the Consolidated Financial Statements.
As of July 31, 2021, we had approximately 1 million square feet, 93 percent of which was leased, of surplus retail stores and warehouses, excluding assigned leases.
As of July 31, 2021, we utilized approximately 552 thousand square feet of corporate office space primarily related to our executive offices located in Providence, Rhode Island and Eden Prairie, Minnesota, as well as other smaller administrative offices across the United States. We own approximately 240 thousand square feet and lease the remaining 312 thousand square feet of our corporate office space.
ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
From time to time, we are involved in routine litigation or other legal proceedings that arise in the ordinary course of our business, including investigations and claims regarding employment law, pension plans, unfair labor practices, labor union disputes, supplier, customer and service provider contract terms, real estate and antitrust. Other than as described in Note 17—Commitments, Contingencies and Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report, which is incorporated herein, there are no pending material legal proceedings to which we are a party or to which our property is subject.
ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES
ITEM 5. MARKET FOR THE REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES
Market Information, Holders and Dividends
Our common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) under the symbol “UNFI”.
On July 31, 2021, we had 80 stockholders of record.
We have never paid any cash dividends on our capital stock. We anticipate that all of our earnings in the foreseeable future will be retained to finance the continued growth and development of our business and repay our outstanding indebtedness, and we have no current intention to pay cash dividends. Our future dividend policy will depend on our earnings, capital requirements, financial condition and other factors considered relevant by our Board of Directors. Additionally, our ABL Credit Facility, Term Loan Facility and Senior Notes contain terms that limit our ability to make any cash dividends unless certain conditions and financial tests are met.
Comparative Stock Performance
The following graph compares the yearly change in cumulative total stockholder returns on our common stock for the last five fiscal years with the cumulative return on the Standard & Poor’s (“S&P”) SmallCap 600 Index and the S&P SmallCap 600 Food Distributors Index. The comparison assumes the investment of $100 on July 30, 2016 in our common stock and in each of the indices and, in each case, assumes reinvestment of all dividends. The stock price performance shown below is not necessarily indicative of future performance.
This performance graph shall not be deemed “soliciting material” or be deemed to be “filed” for purposes of Section 18 of the Exchange Act or otherwise subject to the liabilities under that Section and shall not be deemed to be incorporated by reference into any of our filings under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), or the Exchange Act.
COMPARISON OF 5 YEAR CUMULATIVE TOTAL RETURN
Among United Natural Foods, Inc., the S&P SmallCap 600, the S&P SmallCap 600 Food Distributors(1)
(1)Our selected industry peer group reflects the S&P SmallCap 600 Food Distributors Index, which includes SpartanNash Company, The Andersons, Inc., The Chef’s Warehouse, Inc. and United Natural Foods, Inc.
|July 30, 2016||July 29, 2017||July 28, 2018||August 3, 2019||August 1, 2020||July 31, 2021|
|United Natural Foods, Inc. ||$||100.00 ||$||75.79 ||$||65.05 ||$||16.85 ||$||39.72 ||$||66.27 |
|S&P SmallCap 600 Index||$||100.00 ||$||117.85 ||$||143.80 ||$||131.55 ||$||123.36 ||$||193.62 |
|S&P SmallCap 600 Food Distributors Index||$||100.00 ||$||91.37 ||$||87.58 ||$||49.74 ||$||50.95 ||$||83.70 |
Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
On October 6, 2017, we announced that our Board of Directors authorized a share repurchase program for up to $200 million of our outstanding common stock. The repurchase program is scheduled to expire upon our repurchase of shares of our common stock having an aggregate purchase price of $200 million. We did not repurchase any shares of our common stock in fiscal 2021 or 2020 pursuant to the share repurchase program. As of July 31, 2021, we have $176 million remaining authorized under the share repurchase program. We do not expect to purchase shares under the share repurchase program during fiscal 2022. Additionally, our ABL Credit Facility, Term Loan Facility and Senior Notes contain terms that limit our ability to repurchase common stock above certain levels unless certain conditions and financial tests are met. We may also implement all or part of the repurchase program pursuant to a plan or plans meeting the conditions of Rule 10b5-1 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended.
|(in millions, except shares and per share amounts)|
Total Number of Shares Purchased(2)
|Average Price Paid Per Share||Total Number of Shares Purchased as Part of Publicly Announced Plans or Programs|
Approximate Dollar Value of Shares that May Yet be Purchased Under the Plans or Programs(3)
|May 2, 2021 to June 5, 2021||1,388 ||$||37.23 ||— ||$||— |
|June 6, 2021 to July 3, 2021||7,861 ||35.38 ||— ||— |
|July 4, 2021 to July 31, 2021||5,663 ||33.12 ||— ||176 |
|14,912 ||$||34.69 ||— ||$||— |
(1)The reported periods conform to our fiscal calendar.
(2)These amounts represent the deemed surrender by participants in our compensatory stock plans of 14,912 shares of our common stock to cover taxes from the vesting of restricted stock awards and restricted stock units granted under such plans.
(3)As of July 31, 2021, there was approximately $176 million that may yet be purchased under the share repurchase program. There were no share repurchases under the share repurchase program in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2021.
ITEM 6. RESERVED
This item is reserved as a result of the Company’s early adoption of Item 301 of Regulation S-K, pursuant to rules adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission on November 19, 2020, which included removing the requirement to include selected financial data.
ITEM 7. MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
The following discussion and analysis should be read in conjunction with our Consolidated Financial Statements and the notes thereto, “Risk Factors” included in Part I, Item IA, “Forward-looking Statements” and other risks described elsewhere in this Annual Report.
This Annual Report contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act, and Section 21E of the Exchange Act, that involve substantial risks and uncertainties. In some cases you can identify these statements by forward-looking words such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “could,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “may,” “plan,” “seek,” “should,” “will,” and “would,” or similar words. Statements that contain these words and other statements that are forward-looking in nature should be read carefully because they discuss future expectations, contain projections of future results of operations or of financial positions or state other “forward-looking” information.
Forward-looking statements involve inherent uncertainty and may ultimately prove to be incorrect or false. These statements are based on our management’s beliefs and assumptions, which are based on currently available information. These assumptions could prove inaccurate. You are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. Except as otherwise may be required by law, we undertake no obligation to update or revise forward-looking statements to reflect changed assumptions, the occurrence of unanticipated events or actual operating results. Our actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements as a result of various factors, including, but not limited to:
•the impact and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic;
•labor and other workforce shortages and challenges;
•our dependence on principal customers;
•the addition or loss of significant customers or material changes to our relationships with these customers;
•our sensitivity to general economic conditions including changes in disposable income levels and consumer spending trends;
•the relatively low margins of our business, which are sensitive to inflationary and deflationary pressures;
•our ability to realize anticipated benefits of our acquisitions and strategic initiatives, including, our acquisition of Supervalu;
•our ability to timely and successfully deploy our warehouse management system throughout our distribution centers and our transportation management system across the Company and to achieve efficiencies and cost savings from these efforts;
•our ability to continue to grow sales, including of our higher margin natural and organic foods and non-food products, and to manage that growth;
•increased competition in our industry as a result of increased distribution of natural, organic and specialty products, and direct distribution of those products by large retailers and online distributors;
•increased competition in our industry, including as a results of continuing consolidation of retailers and the growth of chains;
•union-organizing activities that could cause labor relations difficulties and increased costs;
•our ability to operate, and rely on third-parties to operate, reliable and secure technology systems;
•moderated supplier promotional activity, including decreased forward buying opportunities;
•the potential for disruptions in our supply chain or our distribution capabilities by circumstances beyond our control, including a health epidemic;
•the potential for additional asset impairment charges;
•the risk of interruption of supplies due to lack of long-term contracts, severe weather, work stoppages or otherwise;
•our ability to maintain food quality and safety;
•volatility in fuel costs;
•volatility in foreign exchange rates; and
•our ability to identify and successfully complete asset or business acquisitions.
You should carefully review the risks described under Part I. Item 1A. Risk Factors, as well as any other cautionary language in this Annual Report, as the occurrence of any of these events could have an adverse effect, which may be material, on our business, results of operations, financial condition or cash flows.
As a leading distributor of natural, organic, specialty, produce and conventional grocery and non-food products, and provider of support services to retailers in the United States and Canada, we believe we are uniquely positioned to provide the broadest array of products and services to customers throughout North America. We offer nearly 300,000 products consisting of national, regional and private label brands grouped into six product categories: grocery and general merchandise; produce; perishables and frozen foods; nutritional supplements and sports nutrition; bulk and food service products; and personal care items. We believe we are North America’s premier wholesaler with 57 distribution centers and warehouses representing approximately 30 million square feet of warehouse space. We are a coast-to-coast distributor with customers in all fifty states as well as all ten provinces in Canada, making us a desirable partner for retailers and consumer product manufacturers. We believe our total product assortment and service offerings are unmatched by our wholesale competitors. We plan to aggressively pursue new business opportunities to independent retailers who operate diverse formats, regional and national chains, as well as international customers with wide-ranging needs. Our business is classified into two reportable segments: Wholesale and Retail; and also includes a manufacturing division and a branded product line division.
Over the past two years, we have substantially completed the integration of Supervalu and have turned our focus to transforming the business for further future growth. Our operating performance in fiscal 2021 benefited from the shift in food-at-home consumption resulting from the continued impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic, and we expect to continue to benefit from ongoing changes in consumer purchasing behavior. Late in fiscal 2021, we introduced our Fuel the Future strategy with the mission of making our customers stronger, our supply chain better and our food solutions more inspired. Fuel the Future is composed of six strategic pillars, which are detailed in Part I. Item 1. Business.
Collectively, the tactics and plans behind each pillar are meant to capitalize on our unique position in the food distribution industry, including the number and location of distribution centers we operate, the array of services and the data driven insights that we are able to customize for each of our customers, our innovation platforms and the growth potential we see in each, our commitment to our people and the planet, the positioning of our retail operations, and our focus on delivering returns for our shareholders.
We also introduced our ValuePath initiative early in fiscal 2021, pursuant to which we plan to improve operating performance through various initiatives planned to be implemented through the end of fiscal 2023. We plan to re-invest a portion of these operating savings in the business to drive market share gains, accelerate innovation, invest in automation and maintain competitive wage scales for our frontline workers.
We will continue to use free cash flow to reduce outstanding debt and are committed to improving our financial leverage.
A key component of our historical growth has been to acquire distribution companies differentiated by product offerings, service offerings and market area. In fiscal 2019, the acquisition of Supervalu accelerated our “build out the store” strategy, diversified our customer base, enabled cross-selling opportunities, expanded our market reach and scale, enhanced our technology, capacity and systems, and is expected to continue to deliver cost savings and accelerate growth. We believe the Supervalu acquisition allows us to better serve our wholesale customers’ needs and compete in the current environment by providing additional warehouse and transportation capacity, which has enabled us to provide a broader array of products to our customers. As one of the largest wholesale grocery distributors in North America, and in light of the continued expansion of our distribution network and “build out the store” strategy, we believe we are well positioned to leverage our infrastructure in the current economic and social environment to continue to serve our customers and the communities in which we operate, and are actively pursuing new customers. We recently introduced our Fuel the Future strategy, which we believe will further accelerate our growth through increasing sales of products and services, providing tailored, data-driven solutions to help our existing customers run their business more efficiently and contributing to new customer acquisitions.
We believe the key drivers for growth through new customers will come from the benefits of our significant scale, product and service offerings, and nationwide footprint, which we believe were demonstrated by the following larger customer developments in fiscal 2021.
•We’ve recently begun delivering product to Key Food Stores co-operative, Inc. (“Key Food”), a Co-Operative of over 300 grocery stores, after being selected as Key Food’s primary wholesaler. Our supply agreement with Key Food has a term of 10 years with expected sales over that period of approximately $10 billion.
•We have been the primary distributor to Whole Foods Market for more than 20 years. On March 3, 2021, we entered into an amendment to our distribution agreement dated October 30, 2015. The amendment extended the term of the distribution agreement from September 28, 2025 to September 27, 2027.
Trends and Other Factors Affecting our Business
Our results are impacted by macroeconomic and demographic trends, and changes in the food distribution market structure and changes in trends in consumer behavior. Over the past several decades, total food expenditures on a constant dollar basis within the United States has continued to increase, and the focus in recent decades on natural, organic and specialty foods has benefited the Company; however, consumer spending in the food-away-from-home industry had increased steadily as a percentage of total food expenditures. This trend paused during the 2008 recession, and then continued to increase. In general, economic recessions usually result in higher food-at-home expenditures, which would be expected to benefit our customers and result in higher sales.
In fiscal 2020 and continuing into fiscal 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic, which we refer to as the pandemic, led to a significant increase in food-at-home expenditures as a percentage of total food expenditures. We experienced increases in Net sales and Gross profit due to higher Wholesale customer purchases. Retail experienced similar trend increases in Net sales and Gross profit from sales to end consumers. We expect that food-at-home expenditures as a percentage of total food expenditures will remain elevated in the near term compared to pre-pandemic levels. We believe that changes in work being done outside of the traditional office setting will continue to contribute to more food being consumed at home. The pandemic also drove significant growth in eCommerce utilization by grocery consumers, and we expect that trend to continue. We expect to benefit from this trend through the growth of our traditional eCommerce customers, our Community Marketplace, an online marketplace connecting suppliers and retailers, and EasyOptions, which directly services non-traditional customers, such as bakeries or yoga studios, and through customers adopting our turnkey eCommerce platform.
We expect to continue to benefit from elevated sales as compared to historical periods prior to the pandemic while food-at-home expenditures as a percentage of total food expenditures remains higher than recent historical periods prior to the pandemic. Trends in increased sales and gross margin benefits have lessened since the initial onset of the pandemic. The ultimate impact on our results is uncertain and dependent upon future developments, including the severity and duration of the pandemic, including any resurgence of infection rates and new variants with higher transmissibility, any economic downturn, actions taken by governmental authorities and other third parties in response to the pandemic such as social distancing orders or companies’ remote work policies, the impact on capital and financial markets, food-at-home purchasing levels and other consumer trends, each of which is uncertain and rapidly changing. Any of these disruptions could adversely impact our business and results of operations. Considerable uncertainty remains regarding the future impact of the pandemic on our business.
We are also impacted by changes in food distribution trends affecting our Wholesale customers, such as direct store deliveries and other methods of distribution. Our Wholesale customers manage their businesses independently and operate in a competitive environment. We seek to obtain security interests and other credit support in connection with the financial accommodations we extend these customers; however, we may incur additional credit or inventory charges related to our customers, as we expect the competitive environment to continue to lead to financial stress on some customers. The magnitude of these risks increases as the size of our Wholesale customers increases.
We recently began experiencing a tighter operating labor market for our warehouse and driver associates, which has caused additional reliance and higher costs from third-party resources, and incremental hiring and wage costs. We believe this operating environment has been impacted by labor force availability and the pandemic. We are working to implement actions to fill open roles and maintain existing and future employment levels.
Distribution Center Network
Network Optimization and Construction
In the Pacific Northwest, we completed the consolidation of the volume of five distribution centers and their related supporting off-site storage facilities into two distribution centers during fiscal 2020. We expect to achieve synergies and cost savings through eliminating inefficiencies, including incurring lower operating, shrink and off-site storage expenses. We also expect that the optimization of the Pacific Northwest distribution network will help deliver meaningful synergies contemplated in the Supervalu acquisition. We expanded the Ridgefield, WA distribution center to enhance customer product offerings, create more efficient inventory management, streamline operations and incorporate greater technology to deliver a better customer experience. We are now supplying customers served by former Pacific Northwest locations from our Centralia, WA, Ridgefield, WA and Gilroy, CA distribution centers. In order to maintain and stabilize service levels of these higher volume Pacific Northwest distribution centers, we incurred incremental operating costs in fiscal 2021 that we believe temporarily reduced the realization of synergy benefits from this network consolidation.
To support our continued growth within southern California, we began operating a newly leased facility in Riverside, CA with approximately 1.2 million square feet upon completion of its construction in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020. This facility provides significant capacity to service our customers in this market. On February 24, 2020, we executed a purchase option with a delayed purchase provision to acquire the real property of this distribution center for approximately $152 million. We entered into an agreement to monetize the real property of this location through a sale-leaseback transaction, which is contingent upon the acquisition of the facility that we expect will occur on or before June 2022.
In fiscal 2022, we started operating our Allentown, PA distribution center with a capacity of 1.3 million square feet that will be utilized to service Key Food and other customers in that facility’s geographical area. We expect to incur initial start-up costs and operating losses in fiscal 2022 as the volume in this facility ramps up to match it’s expected full operating capacity.
We continue to evaluate our distribution center network to optimize its performance and expect to incur incremental expenses related to any future network realignment and are working to both minimize these costs and obtain new business to further improve the efficiency of our transforming distribution network.
Network Technology Efficiency
As part of our “one company” approach, we are in the process of converting to a single national warehouse management and procurement system to integrate our existing facilities onto one nationalized platform across the organization. We continue to focus on the automation of our new or expanded distribution centers that are at different stages of construction and implementation. These steps and others are intended to promote operational efficiencies and improve operating expenses as a percentage of net sales.
We currently operate 74 continuing operations Retail grocery stores, including 53 Cub Foods corporate stores and 21 Shoppers Food Warehouse stores. In addition, we supply another 27 Cub Foods stores operated by our Wholesale customers through franchise and LLC arrangements. We operate 81 pharmacies primarily within the stores we operate and the stores of our franchisees. In addition, we operate 22 “Cub Wine and Spirit” and “Cub Liquor” stores. We had previously announced our intention to thoughtfully and economically divest our retail businesses acquired as part of the Supervalu acquisition to focus on our core Wholesale distribution business. At this time, we do not have any current plans to divest our Retail business. We continue to strive to maximize the operating value of Retail. As part of that strategy, our new strategic focus is to invest in our stores and optimize our operations to be customer centric. We continue to remodel and upgrade our stores, while investing in eCommerce growth in the form of click-and-collect, delivery, and technology investments, such as mobile customer applications.
Part of our optimization efforts included updating our benefit plan offerings to a defined contribution plan as a replacement for a multiemployer pension plans to which we contribute pursuant to three Cub Foods collective bargaining agreements. In fiscal 2021, we withdrew from participating in three Retail multiemployer pension plans, resulting in a $63 million withdrawal charge, which is recorded within Operating expenses within our Consolidated Statements of Operations, Other long-term liabilities on the Consolidated Balance Sheets and within changes in operating assets and liabilities within Accrued expenses and other liabilities in the Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows. As part of our optimization efforts, we are continuing to evaluate various options to address our off-balance sheet liability under certain of our Retail multiemployer pension plans, which actions may result in significant costs or charges. The extent of these costs and charges will be determined based on outcomes achieved under the process undertaken to minimize or eliminate the liability for the respective multiemployer pension plan. As we continue to work to find solutions to under-funded multiemployer pension plans, it is possible we could incur withdrawal liabilities for certain additional multiemployer pension plan obligations in the future as we actively bargain collective agreements with a number of our unions in due course. Beyond this immaterial plan, at this time, however, we are unable to make an estimate with reasonable certainty of the amount or type of costs and charges expected to be incurred in connection with the foregoing actions. A withdrawal from a multiemployer pension plan may result in an obligation to make material payments over an extended period of time or one-time lump sum payments on a net present value basis.
In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2021, we determined we no longer met the held for sale criterion for a probable sale to be completed within 12 months for two of the four Shoppers retail stores that were previously included within discontinued operations due to the criterion being met as of the Supervalu acquisition date. We revised our Consolidated Financial Statements to reclassify these stores from discontinued operations to continuing operations. This change in financial statement presentation resulted in the inclusion of these stores’ results of operations, financial position, cash flows and related disclosures within continuing operations for all periods presented in the Consolidated Financial Statements and presented below. In addition, in order to present these stores’ results of operations within continuing operations, Wholesale sales to these additional Retail stores have been eliminated upon consolidation.
Our discontinued operations as of the end of the fourth quarter of fiscal 2021 include two Shoppers stores, and for historical periods, results of discontinued operations include the Hornbacher’s and Shop ‘n Save and Shop ‘n Save East retail banners, which were divested in fiscal 2019, and Shoppers stores that were sold or closed in fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2021. In addition, cash flows from discontinued operations include real estate sales related to those historical retail operations. These retail assets have been classified as held for sale as of the Supervalu acquisition date, and the results of operations, financial position and cash flows directly attributable to these operations are reported within discontinued operations in our Consolidated Financial Statements for all periods presented.
In connection with the sale of Save-A-Lot on December 5, 2016, Supervalu entered into a services agreement (the “Services Agreement”) with Moran Foods, LLC, the entity that operates the Save-A-Lot business. Pursuant to the Services Agreement, we provide certain technical, human resources, finance and other operational services to Save-A-Lot for a term of five years, on the terms and subject to the conditions set forth therein. During fiscal 2021, we earned $17 million under the Services Agreement, which was recorded within Net sales. We expect that services provided under the Services Agreement will wind down at or near the end of the initial term in December 2021. At that time, we will lose the revenue associated with this agreement, and any fixed or variable costs associated with servicing this agreement not eliminated concurrently with the decline in revenue, would result in decreased operating profit.
Impact of Inflation or Deflation
We monitor product cost inflation and deflation and evaluate whether to absorb cost increases or decreases, or pass on pricing changes to our customers. We experienced a mix of inflation and deflation across product categories during fiscal 2021 and 2020. In the aggregate across our businesses and taking into account the mix of products, management estimates our businesses experienced cost inflation of approximately one percent in fiscal 2021. Cost inflation and deflation estimates are based on individual like items sold during the periods being compared. Changes in merchandising, customer buying habits and competitive pressures create inherent difficulties in measuring the impact of inflation and deflation on Net sales and Gross profit. Absent any changes in units sold or the mix of units sold, deflation has the effect of decreasing sales. Under the last-in, first out (“LIFO”) method of inventory accounting, product cost increases are recognized within Cost of sales based on expected year-end inventory quantities and costs, which has the effect of decreasing Gross profit and the carrying value of inventory during periods of inflation.
Composition of Consolidated Statements of Operations and Business Performance Assessment
Our net sales consist primarily of product sales of natural, organic, specialty, produce and conventional grocery and non-food products, and support services revenue from retailers, adjusted for customer volume discounts, vendor incentives when applicable, returns and allowances, and professional services revenue. Net sales also include amounts charged by us to customers for shipping and handling and fuel surcharges.
Cost of sales and Gross profit
The principal components of our cost of sales include the amounts paid to suppliers for product sold, plus transportation costs necessary to bring the product to, or move product between, our distribution centers and retail stores, partially offset by consideration received from suppliers in connection with the purchase or promotion of the suppliers’ products. Our gross margin may not be comparable to other similar companies within our industry that may include all costs related to their distribution network in their costs of sales rather than as operating expenses.
Operating expenses include salaries and wages, employee benefits, warehousing and delivery, selling, occupancy, insurance, administrative, share-based compensation, depreciation, and amortization expense. These expenses include the departmental expenses of warehousing, delivery, purchasing, receiving, selecting and outbound transportation expenses.
Restructuring, acquisition and integration expenses
Restructuring, acquisition and integration expenses reflect expenses resulting from restructuring activities, including severance costs, change-in-control related charges, facility closure asset impairment charges and costs, stock-based compensation acceleration charges and acquisition and integration expenses. Integration expenses include certain professional consulting expenses related to business transformation and incremental expenses related to combining facilities required to optimize our distribution network as a result of acquisitions.
Interest expense, net
Interest expense, net includes primarily interest expense on long-term debt, net of capitalized interest, loss on debt extinguishment, interest expense on finance lease obligations, amortization of financing costs and discounts, and interest income.
Net periodic benefit income, excluding service cost
Net periodic benefit income, excluding service cost reflects the recognition of expected returns on benefit plan assets in excess of interest costs.
Our Consolidated Financial Statements are prepared and presented in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States (“GAAP”). In addition to the GAAP results, we consider certain non-GAAP financial measures to assess the performance of our business and understand underlying operating performance and core business trends, which we use to facilitate operating performance comparisons of our business on a consistent basis over time. Adjusted EBITDA is provided as a supplement to our results of operations and related analysis, and should not be considered superior to, a substitute for or an alternative to, any financial measure of performance prepared and presented in accordance with GAAP. Adjusted EBITDA excludes certain items because they are non-cash items or are items that do not reflect management’s assessment of ongoing business performance.
We believe Adjusted EBITDA is useful to investors and financial institutions because it provides additional information regarding factors and trends affecting our business, which are used in the business planning process to understand expected operating performance, to evaluate results against those expectations, and because of its importance as a measure of underlying operating performance, as the primary compensation performance measure under certain compensation programs and plans. We believe Adjusted EBITDA is reflective of factors that affect our underlying operating performance and facilitate operating performance comparisons of our business on a consistent basis over time. Investors are cautioned that there are material limitations associated with the use of non-GAAP financial measures as an analytical tool. Certain adjustments to our GAAP financial measures reflected below exclude items that may be considered recurring in nature and may be reflected in our financial results for the foreseeable future. These measurements and items may be different from non-GAAP financial measures used by other companies. Adjusted EBITDA should be reviewed in conjunction with our results reported in accordance with GAAP in this Annual Report.
There are significant limitations to using Adjusted EBITDA as a financial measure including, but not limited to, it not reflecting the cost of cash expenditures for capital assets or certain other contractual commitments, finance lease obligation and debt service expenses, income taxes, and any impacts from changes in working capital.
We define Adjusted EBITDA as a consolidated measure inclusive of continuing and discontinued operations results, which we reconcile by adding Net income (loss) from continuing operations, less net income attributable to noncontrolling interests, plus non-operating income and expenses, including Net periodic benefit income, excluding service cost, Interest expense, net and Other, net, plus Provision (benefit) for income taxes and Depreciation and amortization all calculated in accordance with GAAP, plus adjustments for Share-based compensation, Restructuring, acquisition and integration related expenses, Goodwill impairment charges, (Gain) loss on sale of assets, certain legal charges and gains, certain other non-cash charges or other items, as determined by management, plus Adjusted EBITDA of discontinued operations calculated in a manner consistent with the results of continuing operations, outlined above. The changes to the definition of Adjusted EBITDA from prior periods reflect changes to line item references in our Consolidated Financial Statements, which do not impact the calculation of Adjusted EBITDA.
Assessment of Our Business Results
The following table sets forth a summary of our results of operations and Adjusted EBITDA for the periods indicated. We have revised the following table for the prior period presentation of two discontinued operations stores moved to continuing operations as discussed in Note 1—Significant Accounting Policies within Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report.
|Net sales||$||26,950 ||$||26,559 ||$||22,341 ||$||391 ||$||4,218 |
|Cost of sales||23,011 ||22,670 ||19,121 ||341 ||3,549 |
|Gross profit||3,939 ||3,889 ||3,220 ||50 ||669 |
|Operating expenses||3,593 ||3,552 ||2,976 ||41 ||576 |
|Goodwill impairment charges||— ||425 ||293 ||(425)||132 |
|Restructuring, acquisition and integration related expenses||56 ||87 ||148 ||(31)||(61)|
|(Gain) loss on sale of assets||(4)||18 ||(1)||(22)||19 |
|Operating income (loss)||294 ||(193)||(196)||487 ||3 |
|Net periodic benefit income, excluding service cost||(85)||(39)||(35)||(46)||(4)|
|Interest expense, net||204 ||192 ||181 ||12 ||11 |
|Income (loss) from continuing operations before income taxes||183 ||(342)||(341)||525 ||(1)|
|Provision (benefit) for income taxes||34 ||(91)||(59)||125 ||(32)|
|Net income (loss) from continuing operations||149 ||(251)||(282)||400 ||31 |
|Income (loss) from discontinued operations, net of tax||6 ||(18)||(3)||24 ||(15)|
|Net income (loss) including noncontrolling interests||155 ||(269)||(285)||424 ||16 |
|Less net income attributable to noncontrolling interests||(6)||(5)||— ||(1)||(5)|
|Net income (loss) attributable to United Natural Foods, Inc.||$||149 ||$||(274)||$||(285)||$||423 ||$||11 |
|Adjusted EBITDA||$||746 ||$||673 ||$||563 ||$||73 ||$||110 |
The following table reconciles Adjusted EBITDA to Net income (loss) from continuing operations and to Income (loss) from discontinued operations, net of tax.
|Net income (loss) from continuing operations||$||149 ||$||(251)||$||(282)|
|Adjustments to continuing operations net income (loss):|
|Less net income attributable to noncontrolling interests||(6)||(5)||— |
Net periodic benefit income, excluding service cost(1)
|Interest expense, net||204 ||192 ||181 |
Provision (benefit) for income taxes(2)
|Depreciation and amortization||285 ||282 ||248 |
|Share-based compensation||49 ||34 ||40 |
Goodwill impairment charges(3)
|— ||425 ||293 |
Restructuring, acquisition and integration related expenses(4)
|56 ||87 ||148 |
(Gain) loss on sale of assets(5)
Multiemployer pension plan withdrawal charges(6)
|63 ||— ||— |
Notes receivable charges(7)
|— ||13 ||— |
Inventory fair value adjustment(8)
|— ||— ||10 |
Legal reserve charge, net of settlement income(9)
|— ||1 ||(1)|
Other retail expense(10)
|5 ||1 ||— |
|Adjusted EBITDA of continuing operations||742 ||663 ||541 |
Adjusted EBITDA of discontinued operations(11)
|4 ||10 ||22 |
|Adjusted EBITDA||$||746 ||$||673 ||$||563 |
Income (loss) from discontinued operations, net of tax(11)
|Adjustments to discontinued operations net income (loss):|
|Benefit for income taxes||(1)||(5)||(3)|
Restructuring, store closure and other charges, net(12)
|(1)||33 ||28 |
Adjusted EBITDA of discontinued operations(11)
|$||4 ||$||10 ||$||22 |
(1)Fiscal 2021 includes a postretirement settlement gain of $17 million associated with the termination of remaining corporate plans. Fiscal 2020 includes a lump sum defined benefit pension plan settlement expense of $11 million associated with the acceleration of a portion of the accumulated unrecognized actuarial loss as a result of the lump sum settlement payments.
(2)Fiscal 2020 includes the tax benefit from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act, which includes the impact of tax loss carrybacks to 35% tax years allowed under the CARES Act.
(3)Fiscal 2020 primarily reflects a goodwill impairment charge attributable to a reorganization of our reporting units and a sustained decrease in market capitalization and enterprise value of the Company, resulting in a decline in the estimated fair value of the U.S. Wholesale reporting unit. In addition, this charge includes a goodwill finalization charge attributable to the Supervalu acquisition and an asset impairment charge. Fiscal 2019 reflects a goodwill impairment charge attributable to the Supervalu acquisition. Refer to Note 6—Goodwill and Intangible Assets, Net in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report for additional information.
(4)Fiscal 2021 primarily reflects costs associated with advisory and transformational activities as we position our business for further value-creation post Supervalu acquisition, as well as costs associated with distribution center consolidations. Fiscal 2020 primarily reflects Shoppers asset impairment charges, closed property and distribution center impairment charges and costs, and administrative fees associated with integration activities. Fiscal 2019 primarily reflects expenses resulting from the acquisition of Supervalu and acquisition and integration expenses, including employee-related costs. Refer to Note 4—Restructuring, Acquisition and Integration Related Expenses in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report for additional information.
(5)Fiscal 2020 primarily reflects a $50 million accumulated depreciation and amortization charge related to the requirement to move Retail from discontinued operations to continuing operations, partially offset by $32 million of gains on the sale of distribution centers and other assets.
(6)Fiscal 2021 includes charges related to withdrawal liabilities from three Retail multiemployer pension plans.
(7)Reflects reserves and charges for notes receivable issued by the Supervalu business prior to its acquisition to finance the purchase of stores by its customers.
(8)Reflects a non-cash charge related to the step-up of inventory values as part of purchase accounting.
(9)Reflects a charge to settle a legal proceeding and income received to settle a separate legal proceeding.
(10)Reflects expenses associated with event-specific damages to certain retail stores.
(11)We believe the inclusion of discontinued operations results within Adjusted EBITDA provides investors a meaningful measure of performance.
(12)Amounts represent store closure charges and costs, operational wind-down and inventory charges, and asset impairment charges related to discontinued operations. Fiscal 2021 also reflects income related to a severance benefit amount.
RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
Fiscal year ended July 31, 2021 (fiscal 2021) compared to fiscal year ended August 1, 2020 (fiscal 2020)
Our net sales by customer channel was as follows (in millions except percentages):
|Chains||$||12,104 ||$||12,010 ||$||94 ||0.8 ||%|
|Independent retailers||6,638 ||6,699 ||(61)||(0.9)||%|
|Supernatural||5,050 ||4,720 ||330 ||7.0 ||%|
|Retail||2,442 ||2,375 ||67 ||2.8 ||%|
|Other||2,300 ||2,324 ||(24)||(1.0)||%|
|Total net sales||$||26,950 ||$||26,559 ||$||391 ||1.5 ||%|
(1)Refer to Note 3—Revenue Recognition in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report for our channel definitions and for information regarding the recast of sales by customer channel to align with the current period presentation.
Our net sales for fiscal 2021 increased 1.5% from fiscal 2020. The increase in net sales for fiscal 2021 was primarily driven by strong customer demand in response to the pandemic as well as the benefits from cross selling, which was partially offset by lower sales from certain customers and business lost prior to the pandemic.
Chains net sales increased primarily due to growth in sales to existing customers, including demand for center store and natural products driven by consumers’ response to the pandemic, partially offset by lower sales from certain customers and business lost prior to the pandemic.
Independent retailers net sales decreased primarily due to lower existing store sales driven by a decline in demand for center store and natural products compared to last year's elevated demand due to a strong initial response to the pandemic, and lower sales from certain customers and stores lost prior to the pandemic.
Supernatural net sales increased primarily due to growth in existing store sales related to the pandemic and increased sales to new stores, partially offset by the impact of categories that have been adversely impacted by the pandemic, such as bulk and ingredients used for prepared foods.
Retail’s net sales increased primarily due to a 2.9% increase in identical store sales from higher average basket sizes related to the pandemic. The increase in Retail sales included the benefit of a 52.3% increase in eCommerce sales at Cub Foods.
Other net sales decreased primarily due to a 20% (or $71 million) decline in sales to food service customers resulting from the lower purchases due to the pandemic and a decrease in military sales, for which we have intentionally resigned certain business, which were partially offset by an increase of $161 million in sales to eCommerce customers.
Eliminations net sales increased primarily due to increased Wholesale sales to Retail.
Cost of Sales and Gross Profit
Our gross profit increased $50 million, or 1.3%, to $3,939 million in fiscal 2021, from $3,889 million in fiscal 2020. Our gross profit as a percentage of net sales decreased slightly to 14.62% in fiscal 2021 compared to 14.64% in fiscal 2020. The increase in gross profit dollar growth was primarily driven by higher Wholesale and Retail sales volume. The slight decrease in gross profit rate included lower Wholesale margin including the mix effect from larger customers, partially offset by an increase due to mix from the Retail segment representing a greater percentage of total net sales and lower levels of promotional activity.
Operating expenses increased $41 million, or 1.2%, to $3,593 million, or 13.33% of net sales, in fiscal 2021 compared to $3,552 million, or 13.37% of net sales, in fiscal 2020. Operating expense in fiscal 2021 included a $63 million Retail multiemployer pension plan withdrawal charge discussed further above. Operating expenses in fiscal 2020 included $27 million of bad debt expense associated with customer bankruptcies and $20 million of charges and expenses, primarily related to customer notes receivable, surplus property depreciation and a legal reserve charge. The remaining 10 basis point decrease in operating expenses as a percent of net sales was driven by prior-year pandemic costs, including temporary higher pandemic compensation costs for our front line workers, estimated to be approximately $57 million or 21 basis points, which was partially offset by higher operating costs related to starting up three distribution centers in the Pacific Northwest and our Allentown distribution center during fiscal 2021. Operating expenses also included share-based compensation expense of $49 million and $34 million for fiscal 2021 and 2020, respectively.
Goodwill Impairment Charges
During fiscal 2020 we recorded $425 million of goodwill and asset impairment charges, which reflected $422 million from an impairment charge on the remaining goodwill attributable to the U.S. Wholesale reporting unit, $2 million related to purchase accounting adjustments to finalize the opening balance sheet goodwill and $1 million of other asset impairment charges. Refer to Note 6—Goodwill and Intangible Assets, Net in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report for additional information.
Restructuring, Acquisition and Integration Related Expenses
Restructuring, acquisition and integration related expenses were $56 million for fiscal 2021, which included $50 million of integration costs primarily associated with advisory and transformational activities as we position our business for further value creation following the Supervalu acquisition and $6 million of closed property charges. Expenses for fiscal 2020 were $87 million, which primarily included $42 million of integration related costs, $40 million of closed property reserve charges related to the divestiture of retail banners and $5 million of primarily employee related separation costs.
(Gain) Loss on Sale of Assets
Gain on sale of assets was $4 million in fiscal 2021, which increased $22 million from a loss on sale of assets of $18 million in fiscal 2020. Loss on sale of assets in fiscal 2020 included an accumulated depreciation and amortization charge of $50 million related to the requirement to move Retail from discontinued operations to continuing operations, which was partially offset by $32 million of gains on the sale of distribution centers and other assets.
Operating Income (Loss)
Reflecting the factors described above, operating income increased $487 million to $294 million for fiscal 2021, from an operating loss of $193 million for fiscal 2020. The increase in operating income was primarily driven by the fiscal 2020 goodwill impairment charge, an increase in Gross profit and lower Restructuring, acquisition and integration related expenses discussed above, which was partially offset by an increase in Operating expenses.
Net Periodic Benefit Income, Excluding Service Cost
Net periodic benefit income, excluding service cost increased $46 million to $85 million for fiscal 2021, from $39 million in fiscal 2020. The increase in Net periodic benefit income, excluding service cost was primarily driven by lower interest costs from a lower discount rate utilized in the measurement of pension liabilities, a $17 million settlement gain for the purchase of an irrevocable annuity to settle participant’s post-employment obligations in fiscal 2021, and a lump sum defined benefit pension plan settlement charge of $11 million in fiscal 2020.
Interest Expense, Net
|Interest expense on long-term debt, net of capitalized interest||$||143 ||$||166 ||$||(23)|
|Interest expense on finance lease obligations||19 ||12 ||7 |
|Amortization of financing costs and discounts||13 ||15 ||(2)|
|Loss on debt extinguishment||30 ||— ||30 |
|Interest income||(1)||(1)||— |
|Interest expense, net||$||204 ||$||192 ||$||12 |
The decrease in interest expense on long-term debt for fiscal 2021 compared to fiscal 2020 was primarily driven by lower amounts of outstanding debt.
The increase in interest expense on finance leases in fiscal 2021 primarily reflects interest on a distribution center for which we executed a purchase option with a delayed purchase provision.
The increase in loss on debt extinguishment costs primarily reflects the acceleration of unamortized debt issuance costs and original issue discounts related to mandatory and voluntary prepayments on the Term Loan Facility made in fiscal 2021. Refer to Note 9—Long-Term Debt in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report for further information.
Provision (Benefit) for Income Taxes
The effective income tax rate for continuing operations was an expense of 18.6% compared to a benefit of 26.6% on pre-tax losses for fiscal 2021 and 2020, respectively. The fiscal 2020 effective tax rate was primarily driven by the impact of non-deductible goodwill impairment charges recorded in fiscal 2020, partially offset by the net operating loss (“NOL”) carryback provisions of the CARES Act. For fiscal 2021, the effective tax rate was reduced by solar and employment tax credits, including the tax credit impact of a fiscal 2021 investment in an equity method partnership, the recognition of previously unrecognized tax benefits, excess tax deductions attributable to share-based compensation and inventory deductions, as well as the impact of favorable return-to-provision adjustments.
Income (Loss) from Discontinued Operations, Net of Tax
The results of discontinued operations for fiscal 2021 reflect net sales of $42 million for which we recognized $14 million of gross profit and $6 million of Income from discontinued operations, net of tax. Net sales, gross profit and operating expenses of discontinued operations decreased $142 million, $39 million and $34 million, respectively, for the fiscal 2021 as compared to fiscal 2020 primarily due to a lower operating store base due to closures and sales that occurred in fiscal 2020. Discontinued operations for fiscal 2020 included $33 million of charges and costs primarily related to store closures charges and expenses, and asset impairment charges related to exited locations.
Refer to Note 18—Discontinued Operations in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report for additional information regarding these discontinued operations.
Net Income (Loss) Attributable to United Natural Foods, Inc.
Reflecting the factors described in more detail above, Net income attributable to United Natural Foods, Inc. was $149 million, or $2.48 per diluted common share, for fiscal 2021, compared to a net loss of $274 million, or $5.10 per diluted common share, for fiscal 2020.
Fiscal year ended August 1, 2020 (fiscal 2020) compared to fiscal year ended August 3, 2019 (fiscal 2019)
Within our results of operations we have estimated the impact of the additional week in fiscal 2019 and the acquisition of Supervalu, where applicable and estimable, to provide comparable financial results on a year-over-year basis. The impact of the 53rd week in fiscal 2019 discussed below represents an estimate of the contribution from the additional week in fiscal 2019 and is calculated by taking one-fifth of the respective metrics for the last five-week period, within the 14-week fourth quarter of fiscal 2019. The quantification of Supervalu’s impact on our results of operations presented below is to discuss the incremental impact of Supervalu, and provide analysis of our underlying business for year-over-year comparability purposes. References to legacy company results are presented to provide a comparative results analysis excluding the Supervalu acquired business impacts.
The requirement to move two of the four remaining Shoppers stores from discontinued operations to continuing operations in fiscal 2021 required the revision of historical financial information to conform with current period presentation. As a result, the following results comparison has been updated.
Our net sales by customer channel were as follows (in millions except percentages):
|Chains||$||12,010 ||$||9,769 ||$||2,241 ||22.9 ||%|
|Independent retailers||6,699 ||5,536 ||1,163 ||21.0 ||%|
|Supernatural||4,720 ||4,394 ||326 ||7.4 ||%|
|Retail||2,375 ||1,687 ||688 ||40.8 ||%|
|Other||2,324 ||2,087 ||237 ||11.4 ||%|
|Total net sales||$||26,559 ||$||22,341 ||$||4,218 ||18.9 ||%|
(1)Refer to Note 3—Revenue Recognition in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report for our channel definitions and additional information.
Our net sales for fiscal 2020 increased approximately 19% from fiscal 2019. The increase in net sales for fiscal 2020 was driven by incremental Supervalu net sales from the first quarter of fiscal 2020, as Supervalu was only included in our results for approximately one week in the first quarter of fiscal 2019, of approximately $3,345 million and was partially offset by $475 million from an incremental 53rd week in fiscal 2019. The remaining underlying net sales increased $1,348 million or 6.2%.
Chains net sales increased primarily due to $1,892 million of an incremental 12 weeks of net sales from the acquired Supervalu business, which was partially offset by the estimated impact from the 53rd week in fiscal 2019 of $213 million. The remaining increase of $562 million was primarily due to growth in sales to existing customers, including demand for center store and natural products driven by customers’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, partially offset by lower sales from previously lost customers and business prior to the pandemic.
Independent retailers net sales increased primarily due to $971 million of an incremental 12 weeks of net sales from the acquired Supervalu business, which was partially offset by the estimated impact from the 53rd week in fiscal 2019, of $120 million. The remaining increase of $312 million was primarily due to growth in sales to existing customers, including demand for center store and natural products driven by customers response to the COVID-19 pandemic, partially offset by lower sales from previously lost customers and stores prior to the pandemic.
Supernatural net sales increased primarily due to increased sales related to the COVID-19 pandemic, growth in existing and new product categories, and increased sales to existing and new stores prior to the pandemic, partially offset by the impact of categories that have been adversely impacted by COVID such as bulk and ingredients used for prepared foods and the estimated impact from the 53rd week in fiscal 2019 of $84 million.
Retail’s net sales increased primarily due to $495 million of an incremental 12 weeks of net sales from the acquired Supervalu business, which was partially offset by the estimated impact from the 53rd week in fiscal 2019 of $40 million. The remaining increase of $233 million was driven by increased identical store sales related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other net sales increased primarily due to $267 million of an incremental 12 weeks of net sales from the acquired Supervalu business, which was partially offset by the estimated impact from the 53rd week in fiscal 2019 of $42 million. The remaining increase of $12 million is primarily due to an increase in eCommerce and other, partially offset by a 23% (or $104 million) decline in sales to foodservice customers, whose purchases slowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic based on their locations being temporarily closed.
Eliminations of net sales increased primarily due to $280 million of an incremental 12 weeks of net sales from the acquired Supervalu business and increased Wholesale sales to Retail, which was partially offset by the estimated impact from the 53rd week in fiscal 2019 of $24 million.
Cost of Sales and Gross Profit
Our gross profit increased $669 million, or 20.8%, to $3,889 million in fiscal 2020, from $3,220 million in fiscal 2019. Our gross profit as a percentage of net sales increased to 14.64% in fiscal 2020 compared to 14.41% in fiscal 2019. Our gross profit for fiscal 2020 included an incremental 12 weeks of gross profit from the acquired Supervalu business estimated as approximately $480 million and fiscal 2019 included an estimated increase in gross profit from the 53rd week of $69 million. The remaining increase in gross profit of $258 million was primarily driven by higher Wholesale and Retail sales volume. The 23 basis point increase in gross profit rate was driven by a 92 basis point increase in Retail gross profit as a percent of its net sales, which was driven by lower promotional activity and contributed to a segment business mix impact that increased overall gross profit rate. This increase was partially offset by a 12 basis point decrease in Wholesale gross profit as a percent of its net sales, and included a decrease due to lower gross profit rates on conventional products.
Operating expenses increased $576 million, or 19.4%, to $3,552 million, or 13.37% of net sales, in fiscal 2020 compared to $2,976 million, or 13.32% of net sales, in fiscal 2019. The increase in operating expenses as a percentage of net sales was driven by 25 basis points of higher incentive compensation, including temporary COVID-19 compensation expense and 13 basis points of higher bad debt expense primarily from customer bankruptcies prior to the pandemic, which were partially offset by 31 basis points of lower other employee costs driven by lower salaries and benefits expenses. Operating expenses decreased by $65 million from the impact of the additional 53rd week in fiscal 2019.
Goodwill Impairment Charges
During fiscal 2020 we recorded $425 million of goodwill and asset impairment charges, which reflects $422 million from an impairment charge on the remaining goodwill attributable to the U.S. Wholesale reporting unit, $2 million related to purchase accounting adjustments to finalize the opening balance sheet goodwill and $1 million of other asset impairment charges.
During fiscal 2019 we recorded a $293 million goodwill impairment charge, which reflects the preliminary goodwill impairment based on the preliminary fair value of net assets assigned, which was finalized in the first quarter of fiscal 2020. The goodwill impairment charge recorded in fiscal 2019 was subject to further change based upon the final purchase price allocation during the measurement period for estimated fair values of assets acquired and liabilities assumed from the Supervalu acquisition. The estimates and assumptions were subject to change during the measurement period (up to one year from the acquisition date).
Restructuring, Acquisition and Integration Related Expenses
Restructuring, acquisition and integration related expenses were $87 million for fiscal 2020 and primarily included $42 million of integration related costs, $40 million of closed property reserve charges related to the divestiture of retail banners and $5 million of primarily employee related separation costs. Expenses incurred in fiscal 2019 primarily related to $74 million of employee related costs and charges due to severance, settlement of outstanding equity awards and benefits costs, $51 million of other acquisition and integration related costs and $23 million of closed property reserve charges primarily related to the divestiture of retail banners.
Loss (Gain) on Sale of Assets
Loss on sale of assets increased $19 million to $18 million in fiscal 2020 from a gain on sale of assets of $1 million in fiscal 2019. Loss on sale of assets in fiscal 2020 included an accumulated depreciation and amortization charge of $50 million related to the requirement to move Retail from discontinued operations to continuing operations, which was partially offset by gains on sales of distribution centers and a retail accounting services business.
Reflecting the factors described above, operating loss