Hy-Vee Food Stores is a company intent on expanding — but not at the cost of its identity.
Under the leadership of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ric Jurgens, the West Des Moines, Iowa-based retailer has become a pillar in communities throughout the Midwest. It now operates 228 stores across eight states, including Wisconsin now, with a location opened last fall in Madison.
Shadowing this growth has been a commitment to health and nutrition that has become Jurgen’s legacy. Consider, for example, that Hy-Vee currently employs 140 dietitians, or that it was one of the first retailers to incorporate the NuVal nutrition rating system, or that it sponsors a yearly triathlon that attracts the top athletes in the sport.
The list goes on.
“Our belief is, if you can make a difference, you should,” said Jurgens, in an interview with SN. “Clearly, people in the food industry can make a difference. If we do our job, [consumers] will make better decisions, and we’ll have a healthier America.”
Hy-Vee has also shown, more recently, a dedication to sustainable technology. The 90,000-square-foot store in Madison became the retailer’s first to achieve LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. That’s the highest certification available under the government-sponsored program, and to attain it Hy-Vee outfitted its store with all sorts of unique features. Low-flow toilets and sinks reduce water use by 40%, for instance, and special refrigeration units save energy and don’t consume ozone-depleting chemicals.
According to Jurgens, this isn’t just a one-time effort — it’s a blueprint for things to come.
“Our anticipation is that as we design stores in the future, the preponderance of them will be LEED-certified or with the intention of being LEED-certified, hopefully at the gold level in most cases,” said Jurgens.
Store expansion in the near future, he said, will be limited to states where Hy-Vee currently operates.
Inside its stores, meanwhile, a leaner, more price-conscious marketing strategy will continue to help shoppers affected by the recession. Each Hy-Vee store is independently operated, and while Jurgens pointed out that level of responsiveness helps in any economic situation, he admitted it gives the company a special advantage during tough times.
“Every community is affected differently,” said Jurgens. “If there are major layoffs or diminished populations, it may take a different approach than if employment is at a good level but people are nervous about the future and simply tightening their belts.”