Ric Jurgens, chairman and chief executive officer of Hy-Vee, West Des Moines, Iowa, has had a broad overview of the weakened economy this year in his role as vice chairman and, since May, chairman of Food Marketing Institute.
Recognizing the struggles the industry is experiencing, he was particularly disappointed when FMI’s Future Connect conference in Dallas was postponed in May due to concerns over the so-called swine flu. (It’s been rescheduled for late October.)
“There’s no question these are the most challenging times we in the food industry have ever faced, and the Future Connect conference, while dealing with long-term education for executives, was also designed to have an immediate impact by helping company leaders become more attuned to what’s going on — to help them respond today as well as in the future,” Jurgens explained.
According to Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI, “Ric’s skilled leadership and business acumen is providing exactly the kind of support necessary to put FMI on a solid foundation and back into a leadership position.
“His keen insights and enthusiasm for the industry have bolstered my work in building collaborative efforts with other organizations to deliver valuable and effective programs and to support our members on critical issues.”
Despite the overall industry outlook, Jurgens told SN he expects Hy-Vee to have one of its best years, if not its best year ever.
“With decision-making taking place at store level, the stores have been able to react to the specific needs of their customers, which has enabled us to sustain a strong sales position and to generate consistent sales increases over last year,” he explained.
The company is on an aggressive expansion and remodeling program that has extended its operations into Wisconsin, where a pair of stores are scheduled to open in the Madison market over the next 12 to 18 months.
Hy-Vee is also testing a 27,000-square-foot limited-assortment prototype called Heartland Pantry in Lincoln, Neb., that emphasizes private-label and basic fresh offerings — a prototype that could enable the chain to enter sites or communities too small to accommodate a full-sized Hy-Vee, Jurgens noted.
— Elliot Zwiebach