The history of Unified Grocers traces to the early part of the 20th century when independent retail grocers in three West Coast cities decided to improve the efficiency of their businesses by combining their resources and forming purchasing cooperatives. In 1915, independent grocery retailers in Portland, Oregon formed United Grocers; grocery retailers in Los Angeles founded Certified Grocers of California in 1922; and independents in Seattle formed a cooperative in 1934 and named it Associated Grocers.
Over the years, all three cooperatives experienced steady growth and success in their respective markets:
- United Grocers grew from an initial membership that was limited to 50 retailers to a membership that owned several hundred stores that purchased approximately $1 billion in groceries from the cooperative by the late 1990s.
- Certified Grocers experienced similar growth and success during this time frame — its annual sales were approximately $2 billion and its geographic reach included retail stores located throughout California, southern Oregon, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii.
- Associated Grocers enjoyed unbridled success over the years, as well. With a constant focus on new products and services, the company grew to approximately $1 billion in annual sales, serving grocery retailers throughout Washington, Oregon, Alaska and parts of Idaho.
In 1999, Certified Grocers merged with United Grocers to create Unified Western Grocers, a $3 billion wholesale grocery cooperative that was based in Los Angeles. With synergies and efficiencies gained from the combination of the two companies, Unified used its new size and purchasing power to look for new business opportunities in the marketplace. At about the same time, the company significantly expanded its specialty business by acquiring four companies and later reorganized its subsidiary under the name “Market Centre.”
In September 2007, Unified Western Grocers acquired Associated Grocers, a Seattle-based cooperative with annual sales to retailers of approximately $1 billion. Shortly after the transaction was completed, the company shortened its name to Unified Grocers.
Today, Unified Grocers is the largest retailer-owned wholesale grocery cooperative in the western United States. Unified and its subsidiaries offer independent retailers all the resources they need to compete in today’s supermarket industry.