This year’s roster of Executives to Watch features five people who are taking on new roles in the food-retailing industry, either at their existing companies, as is the case with Rosalind Brewer of Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club and Randy Edeker of Hy-Vee; at new companies, like Santiago Roces of Save-A-Lot, or through mergers and acquisitions, in the case of Doug Sanders of Sprouts Farmers Market and Randall Onstead of Bi-Lo/Winn-Dixie.
At Sam’s Club, Brewer, a five-year veteran of Wal-Mart Stores, will have to adjust to a new business model while seeking to maintain the strong growth trends that have propelled the warehouse-club chain in the last few years as she steps in as president and chief executive officer. Her background in the CPG industry — she spent more 20 years at Kimberly-Clark Corp. before joining Wal-Mart — also could help her in her new role as Sam’s Club rolls out its Joint Business Program this year, explained Sara AlTukhaim, a senior analyst for the club channel at Kantar Retail.
Edeker, who is scheduled to become CEO of Hy-Vee later this year, also inherits a chain that is firing on all cylinders — but in his case, it is a company he knows intimately. Before the chain moved its headquarters to West Des Moines, Iowa, in 1995, its headquarters and original distribution center were located in Chariton, Iowa — just down the street from where Edeker grew up. “The Hy-Vee trucks went by my house all the time and, because Chariton was a town of just 4,000, we all knew the Hy-Vee executives,” he told SN.
At Supervalu’s Save-A-Lot division, Roces, named CEO last year, will need to learn the ropes of that chain’s unique licensee structure, in which independent business owners operate more than 900 of the banner’s 1,300 locations, while at the same time driving it toward the lofty growth targets set by Supervalu. The company aims to add more than 1,000 new stores in the next three years.
Sanders, one of the original employees of Sprouts Farmers Market, has helped oversee the acquisition and conversion of the Henry’s and Sun Harvest banners in one of the industry’s fastest-growing niches, and there could be additional merger activity in the future, some observers said. In any case, the company is expected to continue to add new fresh-focused stores with a emphasis on natural and organic product and a relatively small footprint.
Longtime industry veteran Onstead persisted all last year in Bi-Lo’s pursuit of Winn-Dixie, and an agreement between the two chains was finally reached in November. Now, as the incoming CEO of the soon-to-be-combined chains, he needs to manage the merger of the two corporate cultures, systems and operations.