CHICAGO -- The push to globalize IGA here came in the late 1980s -- but not from IGA.
1988 by a Japanese wholesaler to help its customers compete with rapidly growing chains. Although IGA did not think it was the right time to enter overseas markets, Haggai recalled something he had heard at a trade show presentation by a Coca-Cola executive.
"He said if the Coca-Cola Co. had waited for the right time and the right circumstances to move into various countries where they now enjoy healthy profits, they'd still be an insignificant syrup company from Atlanta."
After a feasibility study, paid for by the wholesaler, IGA agreed to enter Japan. That move was followed by Australia year later, and a series of other market entries.
"We weren't going to try to Americanize Japan," Haggai said. "We were going to give them what they asked for from us. Our desire was not to win the international community to the West, but to the IGA system, which is flexible enough to improve what the countries already had," Haggai said.
"We wanted to take them from where they were, to where they wanted to go. Take each one individually and find out what each of their needs were," he said.
Currently, Japanese stores fall under the jurisdiction of IGA Asia. IGA's other International Associates are IGA Latin America, IGA South Pacific and IGA Canada -- a longtime sister company to IGA Inc.
"Each country is different than the United States, and we don't go in there and say, 'This is what we do in the United States,' " said Larry Willis, IGA Inc.'s president and chief operating officer. "We learn what they do, and through what we've learned in the United States, we work with them in a way that fits their country."
According to legend, two international IGA stores were spotted in the early 1970s -- one in Spain and one in New Zealand. But no one is quite sure how they joined the IGA system, Haggai said.