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    Unified Grocers Launches Line of Private Label Natural and Organic Foods

    With 120 products initially, the new program targets consumer demand that has already doubled Unified's organic sales over the past five years.

    Retailer-owned wholesale grocery distributor Unified Grocers is kicking its natural/organic program up a notch, with the introduction of Natural Directions, a line of natural and organic food that will be sold in independent grocery stores throughout the western United States.

    Unified's sales of organic food products have doubled during the past five years, according to Ray Burtner, general manager of sales for Market Centre, a subsidiary of Unified Grocers that focuses on the specialty, natural, and organic trade. "They have continued to experience double-digit growth on an annual basis, and we expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future."

    The initial launch features 120 dry grocery, refrigerated, and frozen items. Over the next several months, the line will grow to include new items from all food categories in the store, the company said.

    Over the past year, ND Foods, Inc. has collaborated with Unified's Market Centre subsidiary and its corporate brands department, as well as natural and organic category experts including Organic Foods International, Inc. to develop the Natural Directions brand, Unified said yesterday.

    The joint effort included "extensive research and a careful and thorough screening of producers and suppliers," as well as working with leading certifier Quality Assurance International (QAI), according to the Los Angeles-based wholesaler.

    Natural Directions supports the small organic farms and producers who are the backbone of the organic movement, Unified said.

    "Natural Directions and its organic farmers and producers are united in their commitment to reducing the use of pesticides and additives in the food supply, and to being environmentally responsible," the company added. "They also support the humane treatment of farm animals in the production of food."

    Natural Directions joins Unified Grocers' other corporate brands, which are meant to offer retailers products that are competitively priced and provide a point of differentiation from national brands at shelf level.

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