MINNEAPOLIS - Some customers of Supervalu who compete with the Albertsons stores that Supervalu plans to acquire have begun exploring alternative sources of supply, sources told SN.
"We're sticking with Supervalu for now, but I've got to be ready to make a change," said one Supervalu customer in Pennsylvania, who asked not to be identified.
Supervalu customers in southeastern Pennsylvania who compete directly with Albertsons' Acme chain are among the most affected, which Supervalu itself conceded when it unveiled its plan to acquire Albertsons in partnership with CVS and an investment group led by Cerberus Capital in January. Supervalu also would compete extensively with its own customers in the Pacific Northwest.
One industry source told SN that Jeff Noddle, Supervalu's chairman and chief executive officer, has personally been meeting with some of the company's independent customers to convince them to retain Supervalu as their supplier.
Supervalu could not be reached for comment.
"These retailers are just flat up in arms, because they have been fighting against Albertsons all these years," said the source.
The independents are concerned that Supervalu may show a preference toward its corporately owned stores to boost their performance at the expense of its customers, he said.
"If they get 1,000 cases of something on a special deal, who's going to get that product?" he said.
An executive at one wholesaler who competes with Supervalu told SN his company has been contacted by multiple Supervalu customers, and he has been aggressive in courting such operators.
Supervalu's planned acquisition of Albertsons' best-performing assets would boost its projected annual retail sales to 80% of its total revenues, vs. 53% today, with the rest coming from its wholesaling business.