Ask The Readers: How do United Foods and Azure compare to each other?

Today’s question is from Hope:

I’m wondering if anyone has been in a buying club with both United Foods and Azure Standard? If so, which is better and why? Does one have better prices or delivery times? Is it easier to return products with one or the other? -Hope

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  1. charity crawford says

    I have been with Azure Standards for almost 2 years now and they have great products at a bulk price and they are organic and always fresh. I have not had a bad experience with them yet. Azure Standards also has more locations so is easier to go to a drop point to pick up your products. They have always been on time with there deliveries and you get to meet lots of new friends when you go pick up your food.

  2. says

    I do Azure Standard and United Natural Foods Incorporated.

    Drop-Off: Both have a semi that delivers to a church once a month. Both are in the middle of the day on a weekday.

    Website: Azure’s site is easier to navigate. UNFI has changed password systems a few times, sometimes it won’t let me search or add things to my cart, frustrating.

    Prices: They are comparable. Sometimes one is cheaper than the other. You have to price your favorite things to get a good gauge.

    Product Offerings: I started with UNFI and some of my favorite products are not carried by Azure. But they are open to suggestions. Some things I wish Azure had are Enjoy Life dairy-free chocolate, GT’s Kombucha, and soy yogurts packaged the way I get from UNFI.

    Produce: Produce is easier to order from Azure, I think. If I understand correctly, UNFI requires us to order it in bulk, and there’s a major process for splitting it among ourselves. Azure will let you order individually and packages it up with all your other stuff just for you.

    Buying Bulk: I think UNFI requires us to order in bulk, produce and packaged foods. If I want one box of crackers, I have to hope that 11 other boxes get ordered. Then we have to split it up at the site. So in our UNFI group, everyone is required to work once a year to help split things up. We also help unload the truck. It’s a work commitment at least in our town.

    Packaging: Azure doesn’t require us to buy in bulk. So I can order 1 jar of peanut butter, 5 pounds of carrots, a box of crackers, etc….and they box it all in one box with my name on it. I just show up and pick up my box. As I said before, our UNFI group requires unloading truck, splitting up bulk, and bagging/boxing up our stuff to take home.

    Time: It takes me 5 minutes to pick up Azure. It takes me 1 hours to pick up UNFI. But UNFI is more of a community experience where I see lots of products and learn a lot from fellow members. The kids love to play with their “food group” friends.

    Payment: I love that I can submit my Azure order online and pay with a card. At UNFI, you never know what you are actually going to receive and pay for because it’s dependent on if others will sign up to share the bulk items with you. If you order a case, you get it. If you sign up to split stuff, it’s a gamble. Only the coordinator of the group submits the actual order. We also have a surplus table at our UNFI group which can be fun but also very enticing. So my UNFI bill is never predictable. I write a check to the coordinator after I have gotten my order and purchased any surplus I want.

    Order Submitting: So at Azure, you have to submit your order. At UNFI, you fill up your cart and the coordinator submits. So if you are just playing around with your UNFI order, you need to know when the coordinator is sending in your “cart”.

    Customer Service: The overall tone with people in our town is that they think Azure customer service is much more like a family business, very friendly, happy to work with us. Some are disgruntled about UNFI’s customer service sometimes. Although, I can’t personally say that I’ve experienced problems with either…but our coordinator deals with UNFI for us.

    Discount: I may be wrong about this but I think I heard that the UNFI discount can vary based on the size of your group and your orders??? At Azure, what you see online is what you get. So it’s set. Our UNFI discount has always been the same since I’ve done it a couple years but I think we have worked up to the discount we have???

    Overall: If you don’t have a lot of time to commit and are on a strict budget, Azure is a good choice. I like that I don’t have to “work” the coop and I don’t have to buy in bulk to get what I want. If you are looking for a fun community where you can learn a lot, are willing to buy in bulk to be assured to get what you want, and have a more flexible budget, UNFI’s offerings are great.

    • Micki says

      I was an employee of Blooming Prairie Warehouse before United Foods bought them out.
      I loved working @ BPW!! When United was getting ready to take over, many changes took place. Managers, office staff & even the CEO were suddenly gone. Everything seemed to tighten up. Corporate. It was rather scarey, being an employee for years & watching it all go down! I retired from my position. The atmosphere was changing drastically and it seemed, not for the better. I still know a few people that work there and they are NOT happy now. I feel it’s a shame. Corporate take-over. Buy out of small town coops. Sad!!

  3. rachaelp says

    I have had a very positive experience with Azure Standard. You can have a large or small order. If you have a small order (under $50), you are charged a $5 small order fee on top of the 8.5% shipping charge. I just ordered this week and am looking forward to receiving it next week. Sometimes the pick up time is not convenient but other people are usually willing to help out.

  4. Sarah says

    I have not used United Foods, my family has ordered from Azure for 20 years and we personally know the owners. With Azure you are supporting a family run business and organic farm! I highly recommend them!

  5. Kara says

    My experience is almost exactly like Jamie’s. Azure just works better in terms of fitting into our schedule and having flexibility for my family in what we buy.

  6. Nichole says

    I had an account with UNFI for about 3 years and then moved and switched to Azure, where I have been now for 8 years. I thought about starting up a UNFI group in the smaller town where I moved, but I have to admit Azure is just easier. I also agree it is more of a “small family” type business. When I was with UNFI we just went to the warehouse and picked up our groups order and it was much like the other poster described. It was more effort to order, pay, pick up (we rotated who went to the warehouse and sorted). UNFI had a much larger selection and at the time didn’t have produce options. Azure is just easier all around. Any issues have been quickly resolved and the drivers are wonderful and easy to work with. We have been very happy as a group with Azure. I am a little disappointed with the 8.5 percent shipping fee. I understand the need for it, but wish that they would just work the fee into prices instead.

  7. Beka says

    I’ve also been ordering with Azure for a few years now. I love their products and their prices are super competitive. I highly recommend them!

  8. Kirbee says

    I have experience with both UNFI (through the business I work for and the local coop), and Azure, through friends who are members. What I know about UNFI is, at least, in our area, the prices for bulk items is cheaper (overall) than Azure, but UNFI can be a bit more difficult to work with. UNFI, for bulk orders delivers a flat pallet, with fridge stuff separated from shelf-stable. We have, on more than one occasion, not been told ahead of time that something is out of stock, and then delivery arrives without that item. So, that is frustrating as a business. But, like I said, their prices are good and their selection is great.

    There is an area Azure delivery, and everyone I know uses them exclusively for produce, but UNFI for bulk foods. The produce is fabulous quality, and so much better than in we can access for Northwest Iowa in our grocery stores.

  9. Laura says

    I’ve ordered from United Foods for a number of years, and remember when the transition took place from Blooming Prairie to United Foods. United Foods seemed to have a “big company” mentality, and wasn’t overly anxious to work with small family co-ops. It was particularly frustrating non knowing if our ordered items would show up on the truck or not. Often we’d find out that the item was out-of-stock on the day of pick-up. So I’ve learned that if it’s an item I especially need, I will just buy it locally instead of gambling with United Foods. I’m looking forward to trying Azure Standard, as I’ve heard many good things and prefer to support a family business over a large one that has bought out many smaller businesses.

  10. Danielle Hull says

    I’ve ordered with a local group from UNFI for a few years now. Two families take on the responsibility of e-mailing the group, placing the order and receiving the order. They even print out our receipts and split any bulk items!!! Our group is now large enough (based on average monthly purchases) that we receive a 10% discount and a list of monthly specials that are discounted up to 40%!

    • Jessica says

      I agree with Jamie. I have used both and Azure works much better for me. My family is large so, I don’t have much need for splitting up large bags of things any more. I did’t like taking the extra time that the United pick up involves. Sometimes, I would order a 5 lb. box of something(so, I could just grab and go) through United and my coordinator would combine all the 5 pound orders and order a 50 pound box to get the cheaper price. Then, I, unexpectedly would have to stand there and dig out my 5 lbs. of raisins, etc. Very frustrating! I love that I can order what I want through Azure, on my own account, pay for it online and then pick up my boxes with my name on them.

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