The three entrants into the SN Hall of Fame for 2011 were all pioneers in their own way — Robert Aders as the first president and chief executive officer of Food Marketing Institute, Joseph Albertson as the founder of the Albertsons chain and Ralph Ketner as one of the founders of Food Lion.
A former Kroger executive, Aders already had a long history of industry, government and association experience when he was tapped to be the first leader of FMI. His low-key management style and reputation as a good listener who could bring people together helped form the foundation for strong industry relations among food retailers themselves, their suppliers and consumers.
“I think he made FMI what it is today,” said Byron Allumbaugh, the former chairman and CEO of Ralphs Grocery Co. and one of the first chairmen of FMI.
Likewise, Joseph Albertson also forged strong community ties — in his case between the stores and the communities they served. While his stores thrived based on strong service ideals, his legacy as a generous donor to local civic causes and his support of education in the state of Idaho endures.
“One of the most pleasurable experiences of my life,” Albertson told SN in a 1975 interview, “was running that first store, being there all the time and knowing every customer by name. I really enjoyed learning their likes and dislikes, their wants and needs.”
Ketner too was a pioneer, paving the way for the EDLP strategy in the supermarket industry with his Food Town — later renamed Food Lion — chain. By keeping operating costs as low as possible and getting suppliers to offer the lowest possible prices to his company, Ketner drove enough volume to prosper on a carefully calculated, razor-thin margin.
“You could only sell for less if you bought for less or operated for less, and we did both,” he told SN.