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    EXCLUSIVE IDDBA COVERAGE: Supervalu’s Noddle: Leadership Gaps, Generational Changes are Key Industry Issues

    The rapidly changing ways shoppers are interacting with supermarkets require industry leaders to forgo a business-as-usual mentality in favor of revolutionary strategies that respond to the need for dramatic change, impeccable timing and creative partnerships, Jeff Noddle, Supervalu’s executive chairman of the board, told seminar attendees earlier this week at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association's Dairy-Deli-Bake 2009 seminar and expo in Atlanta.

    The rapidly changing ways shoppers are interacting with supermarkets require industry leaders to forgo a business-as-usual mentality in favor of revolutionary strategies that respond to the need for dramatic change, impeccable timing and creative partnerships, Jeff Noddle, Supervalu’s executive chairman of the board, told seminar attendees earlier this week at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association's Dairy-Deli-Bake 2009 seminar and expo in Atlanta.

    “We have a unique window of opportunity today to create an industry that is vibrant, relevant and attractive,” Noddle said during his “Future of Grocery Retailing” general session address, a key component of which is imparting “kitchen expertise” to an increasingly large percentage of “non-cookers” who lack confidence about purchase decisions, primarily in the meat case.

    To that end, Noddle cited Supervalu’s early May launch of its new Stockman & Dakota branded line of premium USDA Choice Angus beef, which is now available nationwide at the Minneapolis-based retailer’s family of stores. Positioned to address the growing eat-at-home movement by providing consumers with quality cuts of beef and an excellent in-store experience, the 60-item store-brand beef line is backed by high-profile preparation tips, recipes, serving ideas, and a dynamic, instructional companion Web site that features a mechanism for customer feedback, according to Noddle.

    The beef comes in packaging with a clear, concise cooking label that makes it easy for customers to choose beef products by the cooking method they prefer, be it grilling, oven roasting, or slow or pan cooking.

    In addition to discussing a variety of other consumer-centric programs and strategies launched by Supervalu in the past year that underscore the national grocer’s continued focus on preparing for the future, Noddle also touched on several critical non-food-related issues presently confronting the industry, particularly leadership gaps and generational change, environmental stewardship and sustainability, and the responsibility of the modern (and future) grocer.

    With the industry facing heightened competition for the best workers to fill leadership and management positions, Noddle said it’s imperative to attract young, competent talent for the future via innovative methods.

    “Education is key in how we influence perception,” he said, noting that the industry’s advantageous standing is “fast-paced, exciting and meaningful.”

    In a bid to help motivate and inspire people to think about building a food industry career, Supervalu University is teaming with Minnesota colleges and universities to facilitate a food retailing merchandising, marketing and management certificate/degree program. Attracting people to the industry for the long haul, Noddle said, would be best accomplished with a collective push to educate the public on industry principles and practices.

    Noddle’s address at IDDBA came in the wake of news revealed in early May that Noddle would be stepping down from the top spot at the nation’s No. 3 food retailer as part of a planned executive transition. Replacing him at the helm will be 30-year industry veteran Craig Herkert, who was previously president/CEO of Wal-Mart’s operations in North America and South America. Noddle played a key role in choosing his successor, and will continue to remain involved in the company’s strategic direction to help ensure that Supervalu remains on track and focused throughout the transition.

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