The industry’s most influential players are strategically reinvesting in their organizations to accomplish growth in a highly unpredictable economy.
That is a common theme uniting those people making this year’s SN Power 50 list , which was created by SN editors using industry feedback. The editors also produced profiles of each power player that you’ll see in this issue.
Among the strategies driven by top leaders are format revisions, price program changes, acquisitions, expansion moves and initiatives to align with consumer trends.
Many of these are evident from the highest-ranked players. Among the top 10, Mike Duke  (No. 1), president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores, is accelerating the chain’s price competitiveness while setting his sights on international growth. In particular he is emphasizing the need to produce a truly global company, which will entail improvements in the retailer’s global supply chain.
Steve Burd  (No. 2), president and CEO of Safeway, is implementing a price parity strategy against competitors and attempting to gauge its effectiveness.
David Dillon  (No. 3), chairman and CEO, Kroger, is working to maintain market share gains the company won through price investments while also striving to boost profits.
Craig Herkert  (No. 4), CEO of Supervalu, has unveiled an ambitious growth plan for the Save-A-Lot chain and plans to enhance the consumer experience within conventional formats.
Wholesalers on the Power 50 list are attempting to give their retailers more tools in a difficult marketplace. Al Plamann  (No. 18), president and CEO, Unified Grocers, is adding borrowing capacity to help retailers in the event they need support to buy stores or remodel. Jerry Garland  (No. 17), president and CEO, Associated Wholesale Grocers, is in the third year of implementing new warehouse management systems that have outperformed productivity expectations.
Some top executives on the power list have been growing their businesses through acquisitions, including Gregory Wasson  (No. 22), president and CEO, Walgreen Co. He led the company’s purchase of the Duane Reade chain in New York earlier this year, and Walgreens is still on the lookout for additional acquisitions that fit its strategies.
A number of executives are focusing on revamping their store formats, including Richard Dreiling  (No. 20), chairman and CEO, Dollar General Corp. By year-end some 1,500 units will have the retailer’s new consumer-centric prototype, which sports wider aisles, better product adjacencies and bigger refrigerated departments.
Leaders of manufacturer companies are making investments to ensure their businesses are in line with consumer trends. These include Doug Conant  (No. 36), president and CEO of Campbell Soup Co., who will increase to more than 200 the number of reduced-sodium products available by the fall. In another example, General Mills, under Kendall J. Powell  (No. 32), chairman and CEO, will be focusing on new products including healthy reformulations and products geared to Baby Boomers and multicultural demographics.
Association executives are devoting their efforts to collaboration initiatives, including Leslie G. Sarasin  (No. 44), president and CEO, Food Marketing Institute, which is enhancing its relationship with Grocery Manufacturers Association through efforts including joint events.
This year’s Power 50 has a number of newcomers to the list. First Lady Michelle Obama  (No. 5) is the only newcomer to rank in the top 10. She actually replaces her husband on the list, a move that results from her growing influence in nutrition and health topics such as child obesity. Tim Mason  (No. 23), CEO, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, joins SN’s list because his retail operation shows new enhancements and staying power. One power list first-timer is a category rather than a person: The New Digital Consumer  (No. 39). This designation underscores how consumers are increasingly embracing new digital tools and how retailers are attempting to keep up with this development.
Other newcomers to the Power 50 rankings include Wasson of Walgreens; Donnie Smith  (31), president and CEO, Tyson Foods; William R. Johnson  (No. 35), chairman, president and CEO, H.J. Heinz Co.; Robert E. Hill Jr.  (No. 40), president and CEO of Acosta Sales & Marketing; Ron Burkle  (No. 42), managing partner, Yucaipa Cos; Will Martin  (No. 43), chairman, Marine Stewardship Council; Peter Larkin  (No. 46), president and CEO, National Grocers Association; Matt Shay (No. 47), president and CEO, National Retail Federation; and Keilly Witman  (No. 50), manager, EPA’s GreenChill Partnership