With its relatively small box and convenient neighborhood locations, Food Lion may be one of the nation’s most localized chains. It is perhaps ironic, then, that its parent company is run by one of the most globally minded executives in the supermarket industry.
Pierre-Olivier Beckers, chief executive officer of Delhaize Group, oversees a trans-Atlantic operation from his headquarters in Brussels that includes Food Lion in North Carolina, Hannaford Bros. in New England, Sweetbay Supermarkets in Florida and a network of European banners. The company generated nearly $20 billion in revenues last year, with almost 70% of that from the U.S.
“He really brings a global vision to the company,” said one European analyst, who asked not to be identified. “That serves them well now, and it will serve them in the long term.”
Delhaize tackled the current economic downturn with sharp, localized pricing strategies and a strong, three-tiered private-label initiative, increasing store-brand penetration to 19% of sales at Food Lion, 21% at Hannaford Bros. and 23% at Sweetbay. The efforts helped drive a 24% gain in net income in the first quarter.
“They had been stressed, but then they came on really strong,” said Gary Giblen, an analyst with Axiom Capital Management, New York.
Beckers, who also spearheaded the creation of a new association this year, the Consumer Goods Forum, and is serving as its co-chairman, said Delhaize has adapted to the downturn without sacrificing its long-term strategies.
“Difficult economic times require companies to strike the right balance — the right balance between applying short-term decisiveness and maintaining long-term consistency,” he said in a recent conference call with investors. “Our group has shown resilience on many occasions throughout its long history, and this is not any different today. Flexibility is key to successfully adapt to the competitive activity and changes in consumer behavior. The results of the recent quarters are proof of our resilience, flexibility and creativity to continue to attract millions of customers every day.”
— Mark Hamstra