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Organic and specialty foods distributor United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) has partnered with Buyer's Best Friend (BBF), a direct vendor network and catalog, to launch a unified ordering system.
Grocery chains can order from direct vendors via iUNFI as easily as distributed brands, saving buyers time and making it easier to work with specialty, artisan and local brands.
"Consumers want more local and artisan brands, but for grocers and other buyers, it can be difficult to manage dozens, let alone hundreds of direct vendor relationships," said Adam Sah, CEO of San Francisco-based BBF. "We built BBF to bring new and artisan brands to a wider audience. Partnering with the industry leader is the best way to bring thousands of amazing up-and-coming brands into the hands of millions of consumers."
"Many iUNFI customers have asked for direct vendor support, and we are excited to partner with BBF to bring our customers this value added solution," said John Raiche, vice president marketing of UNFI. "This application delivers a high level of productivity for retailer buyers."
For direct vendors, the new platform addresses logistics problems.
"This is an industry-changing solution that solves real problems for thousands of direct brands. Reordering direct is now part of the same process as distributed, saving reps and brokers across the country from having to constantly check store shelves," said Cory Baehr of CBI Imports in Los Angeles. "I will no longer have to worry about my direct brands falling out of stock."
Currently the iUNFI devices are available to select stores; later this summer the natural and specialty food distributor will sell the iUNFI devices. Customers with iPhones will be able to download the free iUNFI iPhone app from Apple's App Store and will be able to scan product using the iPhone's built-in camera or purchase a scanner that fits on the iPhone from UNFI. The BBF solution will be available this fall.
Onboarding of direct vendors is similar to the process of joining BBF. No separate coding is required for the iUNFI scan guns, which reads the direct vendor bar codes. Orders then flow to direct vendors via BBF’s technology.
The partnership also enables buyers to order from the San Francisco-based BBF network of more than 109,000 SKUs and 1,700 brands and enables new brands to gain access to BBF's network of 3,000 accounts that order direct.