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Power 50 Profiles 2008

The success of Kroger Co. in managing through the current economic environment has propelled that company’s chairman and chief executive officer, David Dillon, to the No. 1 spot in this year’s ranking of the 50 most powerful people in U.S. food retailing.

This marks the sixth year that SN has compiled the list, which editors put together based on industry nominations made through SN’s website and from consultations with industry experts.

Dillon joins Steve Burd, chairman, president and CEO of Safeway; Lee Scott, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores; and Danny Wegman, CEO of Wegmans, among those industry leaders who have moved up within the Top 10 in this year’s ranking.

Burd’s efforts to expand Safeway into new business arenas and the success of the chain’s “lifestyle” store conversions earned him the No. 2 rank this year, up from No. 3 last year. At Wal-Mart, Scott has managed to steer the massive discounter on a fresh course, slowing expansion in the U.S. to focus on improving the in-store experience. Wegman moved into the Top 10 by virtue of the company’s ongoing success in expanding to new markets and its initiatives in retailer-supplier collaboration.

Several of the players are new to the list this year, including No. 5, Ed Crenshaw, who took over as CEO of Publix Super Markets in March. Thomas Dickson, chairman, president and CEO of Harris Teeter parent company Ruddick Corp., was added to the 2008 Power 50 roster at No. 14 to reflect that chain’s successful expansion efforts and winning format.

Al Plamann, president and CEO of Unified Grocers, joins the list after completing a deal that merged Associated Grocers of Seattle into his Los Angeles-based co-op, creating a powerful network of independents stretching up the entire West Coast. Charles Youngstrom, the U.S. president of German limited-assortment retailer Aldi, makes his debut in the Power 50 this year to recognize that chain’s ongoing expansion.

A flurry of changes in the executive suites of food manufacturing companies brought four new players to the list this year in that category: Paul Bulcke, CEO of Nestlé S.A.; Muhtar Kent, CEO of The Coca-Cola Co.; Kendall Powell, CEO of General Mills; and David J. West, president and CEO of the Hershey Co.

In addition to retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers, SN also considers those outside the actual business of food distribution but who have influence over it in some way. This year, those include author Michael Pollan, whose books “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food” have crystallized some of the most current thinking on the state of modern eating. He appears at No. 43.

He is followed at No. 44 by Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, reflecting the growing focus on animal treatment, and at No. 45 by “the food blogger,” reflecting the increasing importance of online communications.

New Players in SN’s Power 50

5 Ed Crenshaw, CEO, Publix Super Markets 36 Kendall Powell, CEO, General Mills
14 Thomas Dickson, chairman, president and CEO, Harris Teeter 39 David West, president and CEO, The Hershey Co.
20 Al Plamann, president and CEO, Unified Grocers 43 Michael Pollan, author, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”
22 Gregg Steinhafel, president and CEO, Target Corp. 44 Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO, Humane Society of the United States
25 Charles Youngstrom, president, Aldi North America 45 The Food Blogger
27 Paul Bulcke, CEO, Nestlé S.A 49 Ed Schafer, secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture
33 Muhtar Kent, CEO, The Coca-Cola Co. 50 Stephen Johnson, administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Power 50 Profiles