ATLANTA — Supermarkets have a “unique window of opportunity” to make their businesses more vibrant, attractive and relevant, Jeff Noddle, Supervalu's executive chairman of the board, said in a presentation here last week.
Despite market share challenges from other retail formats, supermarkets are in a position to grow sales in a broad array of categories, including private label, health and wellness, meal marketing and sustainability, he said at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association Seminar and Expo.
The 33-year veteran of Supervalu, who last month announced he will step down as chief executive officer, painted a mostly upbeat picture of future prospects for grocers. He said a revival in home cooking is particularly good news, but noted that other types of retailers are also vying for share of customer.
“We must act now to resonate with our customers in ways that will lead to ongoing loyalty as the economic conditions change,” he said. “We must be at the top of our game and looking ahead by fostering innovation.”
Noddle, who spearheaded Supervalu's acquisition of most of the Albertsons chain three years ago, said his company is striving for growth on a wide range of fronts. One of those is the goal of helping younger consumers — Generations X and Y — to obtain cooking know-how.
“They want to cook but don't have the skills or confidence,” he said.
Supervalu's research into this challenge resulted in strategies around the recent launch of its Stockman & Dakota brand of premium beef. The company created an online presentation for consumers that includes instruction on nutrition, best cuts and preparation, including cooking times. It also includes a feedback mechanism for consumer responses.
“The line is only one month old and we're pleased with its reception,” he said.
Consumers are also eager to build their knowledge of health and wellness, he added. Supervalu has addressed this topic through its Nutrition IQ program that aims to help consumers identify better-for-you foods. The distributor also plans to “leverage its in-store pharmacy network” to develop education programs for topics including how to live with diabetes. “Pharmacists walk the store with diabetes clients to help them shop more effectively,” he said.
On the private-label front, despite a sales surge across the industry, “There's more opportunity than in just mimicking existing products,” he said. “People are ready for new private labels” that are innovative, he added.
He cited Supervalu's Wild Harvest natural and organic line launched last year, which has already grown from 150 to 300 SKUs. This line also makes heavy use of the Internet, including social media, to interact with consumers.