At the FMI Midwinter Conference in Orlando, Fla., Supermarket News caught up with Tony Sarsam, president and CEO of SpartanNash.
In a discussion with SN Senior Editor Russell Redman, Sarsam shed light on performance catalysts in SpartanNash’s grocery distribution and retail businesses, as well as on how its military distribution segment has adapted amid the pandemic. He also gives his take on the extended food-at-home trend and on tailwinds and headwinds in the grocery distribution sector over the coming year.
“What we’re seeing right now is a lingering of the habits — what we call ‘sticky’ habits — that we thought would more quickly revert to older habits around the trend of people eating out more and making fewer meals at home. And it hasn’t taken shape quite that same way,” Sarsam explained. “Part of it is that people have learned during the pandemic that they like food preparation and found some things they can do well. Also, the experience of eating out has been a little bit tougher, as some restaurants have shortened their hours and are facing the same struggles that a lot of folks are having with labor. So, among all those things, we have a longer tail on the habits that were formed during the peak of the pandemic.”
SpartanNash’s core food distribution segment distributes to all 50 states, supplying 145 corporate-run supermarkets in nine Midwestern states — which make up its retail segment — and over 2,100 independent grocers nationwide. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company also distributes to 160 military commissaries and over 400 exchanges in United States and internationally. Sarsam has served as president and CEO since September 2020.