You'll notice right away that this week's issue of SN looks a little different than the usual. That's because it's the fourth annual iteration of the Power 50 list.
The list seeks to identify the 50 people who are responsible for helping mold the industry into its current shape. Those on the list include retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, investors, opinion leaders and even industry critics. To be on the list is all to the good, but at the same time it should be recognized that the list is finite. There are many people in significant industry leadership roles that aren't on it.
Maybe the most frequently asked question about the list concerns the method behind its composition. The process was started several weeks ago when a nomination form was posted on SN's website. Numerous readers participated by proposing who should be on the list. SN editors took a look at the nominations, then decided which 50 should be on the list. The selection process also took into consideration the need to change and refresh the list each year. This year, for instance, the American Consumer, which in previous years topped the list, was dropped altogether under the assumption that the point about consumers has been made. Conversely, new attention was paid by way of this year's list to private investors, industry critics and opinion leaders as a means to show that entities other than those who directly operate food distribution or manufacturing enterprises are major forces too. The column below delves into that in greater detail. Also different this year is that several players rose sharply to new and higher positions on the list. There are newcomers too. Let's take a look at a few of those big changes:
oJeff Noddle, Supervalu's top officer, rose to second place on the list, from seventh on last year's. He was propelled upward by his leadership in what amounted to the total revamping and partial absorption of Albertsons. In what was one of the biggest hybrid deals ever - a deal that involved the simultaneous acquisition and spin-off of various assets - Supervalu more than doubled its top line and shifted moretoward being driven by owned retailing. Larry Johnston, the former top executive of the now-eviscerated Albertsons, vanished from the list. He was in fifth place last year.
Steve Burd, Safeway's top officer, jumped from eighth place last year to fourth this year. That's in recognition of Safeway's moves in restyling its stores with redesigned spaces and new upmarket products. That effort is backed by the "Ingredients for Life" promotional campaign intended to refocus consumers from price to product and, by extension, lifestyle solutions. Much of the Safeway strategy is obvious on its face and a transparent knockoff of Whole Foods and the like, but when a strategy moves successfully from concept to execution, recognition is due.
Further, there are newcomers to the list, including Dan Bane, the top officer at Trader Joe's, debuting at No. 6. New to the conventional supermarket category of the list are Robert Miller, the top officer of the Cerberus remnant of Albertsons, and Christian Haub, the top officer of A&P.