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Award Honorees

Michael Funk, UNFI

2011 : Organic Leadership Award for Achievement in Growing the Organic Industry

A pioneer in the industry, Michal Funk became involved in the mid-1970s when consumer interest in natural foods began to blossom. His career began in the Sacramento Valley with a grassroots organic food business focused on helping the planet and promoting farmers’ use of less pesticides. Funk formed Mountain People’s Warehouse (MPW) in 1976. Business soon expanded beyond produce to include perishables, bulk and groceries, and grew to become the largest natural foods distributor in the Western U.S. During the 1980s, co-ops and natural health stores began to carry more food items and business expanded, driven by strong demand for a healthier lifestyle. This growth created a need for a distributor with the buying power to compete on a national level. To better serve this growing market, MPW combined forces with another regional distributor in 1996 to form United Natural Foods Inc. Under his guidance and leadership, UNFI and its subsidiaries have grown into an estimated $4.5 billion organization that employs over 6,500 associates, and distributes approximately 60,000 products to over 23,000 customer locations, while paying close attention to the “triple bottom line” of people, planet and profit. Meanwhile, Funk is passionate about educating consumers on non-GMO products, pesticide avoidance and supporting local and organic agriculture. He actively supports the organic farming industry with grants, lobbying and outreach, and also is an involved member and supporter of OTA.

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