Kroger said Wednesday that it has hired Aldi veteran Liz Ferneding to take over the vacant role of president of its Ruler Foods discount division.
Ferneding, whose appointment is effective July 31, has served in a variety of leadership roles at Aldi over the past 11 years, including an international assignment in Australia. Upon Ferneding’s return to the U.S., Aldi promoted her to marketing director, and, this year, to director of corporate buying. Ruler Foods’ former president, Paul Bowen, retired in May.
The appointment of an outside division president is unusual at Kroger, which typically promotes division presidents from within. The move appears to signal the company’s intentions to further develop and expand the Ruler concept as it prepares to battle in an industry more influenced by limited-assortment discounters like Aldi and Lidl.
"Liz's extensive grocery retail experience in procurement, marketing, advertising, management and operations will be an asset to our Ruler associates, customers and community," Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and CEO, said in a statement. "We have a lot of respect for the Ruler format and the customer it serves. Liz's talent and insights will help us sharpen our value-centric, small-format store."
Kroger’s history with Ruler dates back to its 1999 acquisition of Jay C Food Stores, which at the time operated a single discount store under the Ruler Foods name. Kroger has expanded the concept at a deliberate pace, mainly through conversions of existing stores.
The Ruler division is headquartered in Seymour, Ind., and today operates 48 stores in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee. Ruler stores, which average 19,000 square feet, offer lower prices and an expansive selection of private-brand foods. Ruler will open two new stores later this year.