UWG Adopts New Name, Logo as Merger With AG Looms

LOS ANGELES Unified Western Grocers here is in the process of changing its name to, simply, Unified Grocers as part of a new branding image. The member-owned cooperative was founded as Certified Grocers of Los Angeles but changed its name to Unified Western Grocers in 1999 when it merged with United Grocers, Portland, Ore. The latest name change comes as the co-op is in the process of acquiring Associated

LOS ANGELES — Unified Western Grocers here is in the process of changing its name to, simply, Unified Grocers as part of a new branding image.

The member-owned cooperative was founded as Certified Grocers of Los Angeles but changed its name to Unified Western Grocers in 1999 when it merged with United Grocers, Portland, Ore.

The latest name change comes as the co-op is in the process of acquiring Associated Grocers, Seattle. However, the timing in coincidental, a spokesman told SN, since the company had been considering the change as part of a reassessment of its branding and imagery for several months.

“Research indicated most people liked the name Unified but felt ‘Western’ was really not specific, because what is ‘Western,’ anyway? And it was also considered too limiting, though we have no aspirations to go nationwide.

“But ‘Grocers’ was deemed a positive word, because it relates to our focus on consumers — and the realization our job is not finished at the back door of the store, but once the item is pushed across the scanner.”

The company is also adopting a new blue “U” as a symbol of its new name.

Although Unified intends to use the name immediately, it will not be legally changed until shareholders vote in February, the spokesman said.

Unified unveiled the new name — without calling attention to it — in a newsletter called Transition Times that was emailed to employees of Unified and AG to keep them informed of the progress of the proposed merger.

According to the newsletter, information on the combined company's vision and the plans and programs designed to help it achieve that vision are expected to be made public in approximately two or three weeks.

“We would like to acknowledge and respond to the sense of ‘angst and trepidation’ that we know many of you are feeling,” the newsletter said.

“We are well aware that many of you want to know how this transaction will affect you, what the next steps in the process are and what the new company's ‘vision’ looks like several years from now.

“Plans and programs are still being finalized, [and] as soon as we are able to answer these questions, we will share this information.”

The two companies signed a letter of understanding May 7, after which the due diligence process began. The newsletter said a definitive purchase agreement, which usually comes 60 to 90 days after the purchase agreement, is still in the process of being finalized.

After a definitive agreement, the transaction must be approved by the boards of Unified and AG, by AG shareholders and by federal regulators.

Heinen's Boosts Private-Label Offering

CLEVELAND — The decision by Heinen's Fine Foods here to offer the ShopRite private-label line is “working out well,” though after only four months or so, it's too early to comment definitively on how well the line is selling, co-owner Tom Heinen told SN last week.

“We'll have a better idea in six, nine or 12 months from now about what kind of penetration it has,” he said.

Heinen's put in approximately 185 ShopRite products from Wakefern Food Corp., Elizabeth, N.J., earlier this year. The 17-store Heinen's chain is one of a handful of retailers who are non-member wholesale customers of Wakefern, which said it will consider selling to such retailers as opportunities come along.

Heinen's had a limited private-label offering, with a line of dairy products under the corporate name and a smattering of premium private-label grocery items under the Two Brothers name.

“Private label was just a missing element in our overall offering,” Heinen explained. “For years, private label signified lower quality, but many private-label items today are equal to or better than the national brands, and we were looking for a value proposition that we were otherwise unable to provide for customers looking for value without sacrificing quality.”

Tom Heinen said the chain, which is a member of the Topco cooperative, had considered using Topco's private-label line but opted for the ShopRite line instead.

“When we looked at Wakefern's private-label program, we felt they had a very credible product,' he said. “And in terms of quality, they were moving in the direction of better quality and more unique products that matched up with where Heinen's is in the market, so we felt it was a good match.”

Jeff Heinen said the company, which is self-distributing, uses a common carrier to ship ShopRite items from Wakefern's facilities to its own warehouse.
— E.Z.