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UNFI_trailer_truck_0_1_1_1_3_0.png United Natural Foods Inc.
Balian previously served as chief of staff to UNFI President Chris Testa, who also heads the company’s services arm, including the Brands+ private- and own-brands portfolio.

UNFI elevates Angie Balian to chief brands officer

CPG veteran to oversee private-label and own-brands division

Continuing a flurry of executive appointments, United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) has promoted Angie Balian to chief brands officer, a newly created position.

The appointment is effective immediately, UNFI said Wednesday. In the role, Balian will oversee the Providence, R.I.-based distributor’s private-label and own-brands division, which the company described as a key component in providing its independent grocery retail partners with choice, value and unique products.

Angie Balian-UNFI.jpgBalian (pictured left) previously served as chief of staff to Chris Testa, UNFI’s president. Testa also heads the company’s services arm, includes supplier services, professional services, e-commerce and Brands+, its private- and own-brands portfolio. She continues to report to Testa in her new post.

“I’ve had a chance to work alongside UNFI’s private-label and owned-brands teams over the last several months, and I’m very impressed with the core brands, products and people we have in place,” Balian said in a statement. “The opportunity now is to build on this foundation — using consumer and customer feedback, data and insights — to inform how and where we invest in our portfolio to best support the ever-changing food landscape. We know value is critically important to consumers, and our offerings in private-label and owned-brand products must continue evolving in meet those demands today and for the future.”

Before coming to UNFI, Balian spent over a year as vice president and general manager of Toronto-based food manufacturer Weston Foods, where she directed business strategy and development of a multiyear growth plan for the nearly $800 million packaged breads, rolls and alternatives category. Formerly part of Loblaw Cos. parent George Weston Ltd., the Weston Foods fresh and frozen bakery business was sold to FGF Brands Inc. in a $1.2 billion (Canadian) deal last October.

Balian joined Weston Foods after nearly 16 years at Coca-Cola Canada, finishing as an executive on the leadership team and serving in such roles as vice president of commercial and franchise Leadership (2016-2020) and as vice president of marketing for the stills beverage category (2014-2016). UNFI noted that she also gained experience as a brand and category manager for various Coca-Cola-owned products and categories during her time at the company. Prior to that, she spent over three years in brand management roles at Kraft Foods.

“There is a tremendous opportunity with our private- and owned-brand offerings as grocery retailers are specifically looking to us to help them source the unique products, value and price points they need to support their communities,” according to Testa. “Angie’s experience with sales and marketing of national consumer packaged brands, along with her track record for building high-performing teams, will help us grow and improve on what is already a very strong portfolio of UNFI products.”

Balian’s appointment to the C-suite extends a series of executive changes at UNFI in recent months. Earlier this month, for example, the grocery wholesaler hired AmerisourceBergen executive Erin Horvath as chief supply-chain transformation officer, a newly created position.

That came about three months after UNFI announced a new leadership and organizational structure more closely aligned to the company’s strategic priorities. With the move, Testa and four other C-suite executives took on leading roles in the revamped organization: Steve Dietz, chief customer officer; Mark Bushway, chief supply chain officer; Jack Clare, chief information officer; and Mike Stigers, CEO of the Cub Foods retail business unit. The reorg also paved the way for the promotion of Balian, who was tasked with collaborating with the brands and services team to focus on initiatives to accelerate growth, drive efficiencies and help customers succeed.

Plans call for Dietz and Bushway to report to Douglas upon the retirement of Eric Dorne, chief operating officer, on Oct. 29. UNFI had announced in mid-May that Dorne aimed to retire in the fall.

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