Last week, papers were signed to end United Grocers. Were they purchased by some multinational corporation? Will inexpensive Western Family brand be eliminated? If so, we will have fewer, more expensive choices. Is it a secret?
— Ira E., Medford
Ira, you know newspaper people don't like secrets — unless they're our own.
Remember the minnow gets swallowed by the little fish and the little fish gets swallowed by the big fish, and so forth. It's the same in the grocery game.
Minnesota-based Supervalu Inc. now owns distribution rights for Western Family products.
Supervalu announced in April it would buy Unified Grocers, a Los Angeles-area food distributor, in a deal that was worth about $390 million when it closed in June.
Unified's $3.8 billion in annual revenue adds to Supervalu's existing wholesale business, which had about $8 billion in revenue last year. Combined, Supervalu and Unified will operate 24 distribution centers that will serve 3,000 groceries in 46 states.
Unified now is a combination of three West Coast wholesale grocery cooperatives, each founded more than 80 years ago. United Grocers, formed in 1915, became a wholly owned subsidiary of Unified Western Grocers in 1999. In 2007, the cooperative bought Seattle-based Associated Grocers and dropped the "Western" from its name.
Western Family Foods was founded as the Pacific Mercantile Cooperative in 1934 by a group of retailer-owned grocery wholesalers. In June 2016, Western Family Foods was acquired by Skokie, Illinois-based Topco.
Supervalu President and CEO Mark Gross told Supermarket News earlier this year that the company plans to continue offering Unified Grocers’ private brands to Unified’s customers.
“This includes continuing to distribute high-quality Topco and Unified private label brands such as Springfield, Western Family and Natural Directions,” Gross said.
A local Sherm's manager said the grocer is working on a deal to keep Western Family products on the shelves.
"We're pushing to keep the Western Family brand going," he said.
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