In an address at Kroger Co.’s annual meeting in Cincinnati Thursday, Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen emphasized the company’s newly stated mission — “Feed the Human Spirit” — which he said highlighted efforts to serve shoppers on their terms in a fast-changing landscape.
“As we all know, there is a lot of change going on in the food retail industry. Kroger has evolved many times over 134 years. We have successfully adapted and competed thanks to our relentless focus on customers and that is why we are confident in our ability to evolve today.
“We will continue to grow because we know how to connect customers better than anyone,” he continued. “We have nearly a two-decade advantage in customer insights and personalization through our loyalty program, one of the largest and most sophisticated of any retailer. And we’ve been using that advantage to deepen our relationship with every customer. We have the human connection of physical assets and the expertise to win with customers in our stores, and we’ve been building our digital capability to serve customers — anytime, anything, anywhere.”
The board of directors authorized the company to repurchase up to $1 billion in its stock, replacing a prior authorization that had been exhausted. The board also approved an annual dividend increase from 48 cents to 50 cents per year.
A shareholder proposal for Kroger to name an independent chairman fell short of approval but gained 36% of the vote, according to Sum of Us, a global consumer watchdog and institutional holder of Kroger stock that put forth the petition.
Sum of Us, along with several environmental groups, urged Kroger to name an independent chairman with an eye on urging a policy that would eliminate the use of pollinator-toxic pesticides.
Kroger however highlighted environmental progress made over the last year including introduction of a new milk container that it said would save five million pounds of plastic annually.