United Natural Foods, Inc. has announced that Matt Echols has been appointed to the newly created position of Chief Corporate Affairs Officer with oversight of the Company’s Corporate Communications and Engagement, Public Policy, Government Relations, and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) teams. Echols, who most recently has served as Global Vice President for Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability at The Coca-Cola Company, will join UNFI on March 1, 2022 and will report to Sandy Douglas, UNFI’s Chief Executive Officer.
“As we continue our journey to improve the way we serve existing and future customers, we know we need stronger and fully integrated capabilities across Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), Communications, and Public Policy. This new role reflects our belief in the value created for UNFI’s customers, suppliers, associates and other stakeholders through these critical areas,” said Mr. Douglas. “Matt is a seasoned senior executive with the business acumen and subject matter expertise to lead our integrated approach. He will be a valuable member of our executive leadership team.”
“In this time of industry and social change, I am excited to join the UNFI team and bring these important functions together to proactively engage with our associates, customers, communities, and shareholders” said Echols, who will serve as an executive officer of the Company. “UNFI has a compelling growth story with an impressive history of community impact to go with it.”
Under the new leadership structure, UNFI’s corporate communications and engagement, government affairs and environmental and social impact teams will come together as one team and report to Echols.
Throughout his 24 years with The Coca-Cola Company, Echols held several roles including Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability for North America from 2015 to 2019, and from 2019-2021 a similar role in Asia Pacific based in Singapore, where he also led the Company’s signature packaging initiative in the region called World Without Waste. Echols joined Coca-Cola in 1998 eventually leading government affairs at all levels of the U.S., including leading the company’s Washington D.C., office, before broadening his portfolio to include communications, sustainability, and reputation.
Before joining Coca-Cola, Mr. Echols worked on Capitol Hill for several members of the U.S. Congress from his home state of Georgia, both Democrats and Republicans, including U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, who was a longtime member of the House Agriculture Committee and later Chaired the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.
Mr. Echols holds a master’s degree in marketing communications from Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School and a bachelor’s degree from the University of West Georgia.