LOS ANGELES -- Certified Grocers of California's new president and chief executive officer, Al Plamann, views himself as both an insider and an outsider.
While he has four years of experience with the company as chief financial officer, he also points to his previous career as an executive with oil giant Atlantic Richfield Co., Los Angeles, which he said enables him to view Certified's needs from a broader perspective. Plamann served ARCO for more than 13 years, both in domestic and international capacities. His last position there was vice president of finance, planning and control for the ARCO International Oil & Gas Co. subsidiary. "I don't view this organization [Certified] through a Certified filter," he told SN. "I use other filters to get what you could call a fresher approach. I look at this company in broader terms -- as a distribution and logistics company in the food industry. "The key is not how I view people in the organization as much as where the organization can go with the retail customers we have and those available to us -- how we can match those retailers' needs with what we can offer." Members of Certified's board expressed excitement about the new approaches Plamann is instituting. "We had lost touch with the membership for a while, and the members felt the company wasn't taking care of them," said Bill MacAloney, the co-op's board chairman and owner of Jax Markets, Anaheim, Calif. "But taking care of the independent is the primary reason Certified is in business, and Al is communicating with the membership and making sure they know what we're doing," MacAloney told SN. "We have sufficient warehouse capacity, and now we need to start following through to move products to the members." Morrie Notrica, owner of seven independent units, expressed similar thoughts. "Al Plamann is changing the way Certified does things because circumstances have changed," he said. "ECR, club stores and the growth of discount formats has made competition much keener, and that's changed the picture for everybody. "Al is very cool, looking into every aspect of what's happening, asking a lot of questions and trying to implement new programs. He's a thinker, and that's what we need right now." Lou Amen, owner of Super A Foods, Paramount, Calif., said Plamann is "a plus for Certified and the future of the independent in southern California. "Coming from the outside a few years ago, he has no ties to any individuals. His loyalty is to the membership, and whatever he does has good business judgment behind it."