You have in your hands one of the most unusual issues of SN ever published. This week, for the first time in memory, SN is largely eschewing its signature news-driven format and sectionalization to highlight 50 Power Players. The 50 are no less than industry influencers who, in one way or another, set the tone and agenda for the entire business category.
Most of these icons of influence are directly engaged in food retailing, distribution or manufacturing. Some are in government, trade associations, finance and more.
The means SN editors used to identify the 50 -- and, more difficult, rank them -- is detailed in the column below. But it should be stated here that many additional influential people could have been selected. Moreover, since nominations were received on SN's Web site, those readers who made nominations are influential in their own right.
Let's take a closer look at a sampling of the type of Power Player you'll encounter as you leaf through this week's special issue:
First, the consumer: Maybe a few years ago, it wouldn't have occurred to anyone to consider the consumer as the chief driving force in the industry. One exception might be when price boycotts occurred in the 1970s. Even then, though, the consumer was seen as an implacable enemy, not the entity in the driver's seat. But now, catering to the consumer is, or should be, what business processes are all about.
Mass merchant: Next on the list are three executives who are critical to Wal-Mart Stores. Like it or not, Wal-Mart is the main change agent at work in the industry today. Profiled are H. Lee Scott Jr., president and chief executive officer; Tom Coughlin, executive vice president and vice chairman; and Linda Dillman, senior vice president and chief information officer. The last is on the list because Wal-Mart is a logistical proposition. Retailers: There are numerous retailers on the list, of course. Let's pick one, Bill Grize, president and CEO, Ahold USA, to look at here. Bill certainly has his hands full, considering the accounting fiasco now plaguing Ahold. But Bill's up to a lot more than facing that challenge. He has assumed an invaluable leadership role in promoting diversity in the company's workforce and its vendors. He's also a force behind the establishment of technology standards.
Wholesalers: There are a couple of wholesalers on the list, too. Let's consider Jeff Noddle, president and CEO, Supervalu, here. Jeff's fortunes took a propitious turn a couple of years ago in connection with his decision to back out of a huge supply deal with the ill-fated Kmart Corp. Don't ask why Fleming Cos. isn't on the list.
Others: Numerous other food formats are on the list, too. One of particular interest is dollar stores, a relatively new entrant to food selling. You'll see how one executive, Howard Levine, chairman and CEO, Family Dollar, is driving that retailing form.