United Natural Foods acquires Cub Foods' parent company Supervalu for $2.9 billion

Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based Supervalu, the parent company of Cub Foods, is being sold to Rhode Island-based United Natural Foods for approximately $2.9 billion, the two companies announced Thursday. 

Over time, United Natural Foods plans to divest Supervalu retail operations, which operate under the names Cub Foods, Hornbacher's, Shop 'n Save and Shoppers, according to a news release. 

Analysts say the new company plans to focus on the wholesale side of the grocery industry. 

United Natural Foods is actually a smaller company than Supervalu, but it spent nearly $3 million on the deal. 

"The grocery business has been struggling for a decade or so," said George John of the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota. "It's no secret. Margins are low, growth has not been there so you get a lot of consolidation in those kind of industries." 

John says Supervalu has tried a number of different strategies to deal with both sides of its business. First, it bought and sold a number of major grocery chains across the country. More recently it focused its acquisitions on the wholesale business, providing products to retailers. 

He says this sale will likely result in job losses, especially on the corporate side. 

Fox 9 spoke with President and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber Jonathan Weinhagen, about what this will mean for the region's economy.

"The good news is we operate in an employment market which is incredibly competitive, some of the lowest unemployment in the country," he said. "So, I think certainly to the extent that folks find themselves reorganized, there's going to be plenty of opportunity for us to absorb that talent across the region." 

The company has not given a timetable on when it plans to sell Cub Foods or whether it has any buyers in mind right now. 

Started in Minneapolis in 1926, Supervalu is now one of the largest grocery wholesale retailers in the country, with sales of approximately $14 billion in the last fiscal year. 

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2018. 

The UFCW Local 653, the union that represents a number of Cub Foods workers in Minnesota, released a statement from President Matthew Utecht Thursday:

We value each and every one of our union members and their families. We know they work hard to put food on their families' and our communities' tables. They provide the best service to Minnesota's customers and we are proud to represent them. 

Currently, our main concern is for our union brothers and sisters working Cub Foods in Minnesota. I commit to our members that in the coming days we plan to fight for thousands of our union families. We will fight to maintain good wages, benefits and desirable union jobs won through collective bargaining. 

While Supervalu may change ownership, we will continue to serve our members to the best of our ability, ensuing they are protected by current contracts and future ones.