Last week's Major League Baseball All-Star Game was a good warm-up for an even bigger event: the release of SN's annual all-star ranking, the Power 50. The 2011 version has just been published.
SN's roster of the most influential people includes lots of industry veterans and a few rookies. That is, rookies to the power list who also happen to be industry veterans. Typically they make the grade because of bold actions or important new job responsibilities.
There are a few in that category this year, including these three from food distribution companies: Dick Boer, CEO, Ahold; Fred Morganthall, president, Harris Teeter, and chairman, Food Institute; and Steven Spinner, president and CEO, United Natural Foods Inc.
Each of these leaders is pursuing unique paths to growth for his company, and helping to drive the industry in the process.
Ahold's Boer joins the list in the wake of becoming CEO of the Amsterdam-based retail operator last October. His firm is one of the most closely watched in the industry, so it's not surprising its chief is always in the spotlight. Boer's mission, as SN's article points out, is to extend Ahold's strategy from rebuilding its retail brands, which in the U.S. include Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover, to expansion. This is expected to include acquisitions, new markets and additional formats — and some of this has already begun to play out.
Harris Teeter's Morganthall joins SN's power roster after recently becoming chairman of Food Marketing Institute, an opportunity to influence the industry's direction during the two-year term of that position. Morganthall still has his day job running Harris Teeter, and by all accounts he's had lots of success steering the retailer through a tough economic climate. One of the biggest success drivers has been the sophisticated use of loyalty card data to adjust pricing and promotions for changing consumer demand. Also notable has been a push to expand in new regions.
United Natural's Spinner is different than the other two executives in that he's running a natural, organic and specialty food distributor rather than a retail operation. He makes the power list because of his company's unique growth direction. UNFI has targeted the conventional supermarket channel, and among its customers are Ahold USA, Giant Eagle, ShopRite, Kroger and Target. The distributor's success speaks volumes about the growing influence of natural and organic in mainstream food retail channels.
Meanwhile, among other newbies on this year's power list, one isn't even a person.
Number 44 on the roster is “The Like Button,” which represents the growing influence of social media in food industry circles.
Social media's impact is so new that it's still a work in progress for most food industry companies.
That's the beauty of the power list. Just when you think you've seen it all, a rookie shakes things up.