Supervalu Reconnects With Fresh Produce

7/1/2010

The grocer's W. Newell division plays a key role in its plan to "Win with Fresh Produce."

While further aspects of Supervalu's long-range outlook remain to be seen, fresh produce promises to factor heavily as one of four top marketing and merchandising priorities on deck for the Minneapolis-based company's immediate game plan.

At presstime, Supervalu had begun to sow the first seeds of its renewed commitment, dubbed "Win with Fresh Produce," with a major summer promotion aimed at touting locally grown fruits and vegetables. As part of the initiative, the grocery chain will post "just arrived" signs and labels on its freshest items and similarly highlight "locally harvested" produce from nearby growers, as revealed during Supervalu's annual shareholders meeting in late June by president and CEO Craig Herkert.

"We are immediately addressing our position in fresh produce," said Herkert, which he described as "one of the most important categories to consumers, and one in which we have tremendous opportunity. In addition to immediate display and execution changes, we are launching several compelling initiatives," including the "Locally Harvested" program, which will leverage the expertise of its Champaign, Ill.-based fresh produce wholesale distribution subsidiary, W. Newell & Co., launched by Supervalu in 2005.

"This initiative will bring local produce into our stores all year," explained Herkert, noting that companion point-of-sale signage has been developed indicating that the produce has "just arrived," along with information on where it was grown.

"The program brings another level of hyper-local marketing into our stores," noted Herkert. "When a shopper knows that we support the local economy by purchasing locally, that sends a positive message about our stores. And when that local produce is at the peak of freshness, we can't be beat."

Aside from the "Win with Fresh Produce" promotion, Supervalu's other top goals for fiscal 2011 are a "Build our brands" private label focus, "Invigorate her shopping experience" and "Simplify our stores," the last two of which aim to better target the needs of the estimated 80 percent of grocery shopping done by women, and focus on "shop-ability," including product assortment, shelving practices and simplified signage.

Interestingly, the prominent role W. Newell plays in the facilitation of the "Win with Fresh Produce" program coincides with the timing of the appointment of Greg McNiff as the new president of Supervalu's standalone produce subsidiary, following its realignment late last year with the grocer's Pleasant Prairie, Wis.-based Midwest-Southeast region. At the time, the COO position, previously held by veteran produce industry executive Gary Gionnette, was eliminated, along with discussions of possibly scrapping the produce subsidiary.

Poised to begin his new duties on July 19, the 46-year-old McNiff was most recently VP of fresh merchandising for Supervalu's Albertsons Southern California division.

"Greg's time overseeing the Albertsons Southern California division's fresh departments, along with his broad experience in marketing and merchandising, make him an excellent fit to lead W. Newell's operations," said Janel Haugarth, Supervalu's EVP and president/COO, supply chain services, to whom McNiff will report. "We know that fresh local produce is important to our customers, and under Greg's leadership, we will continue to provide quality, locally grown produce at competitive prices."

McNiff's 29-year tenure with the company, including stints in several leadership roles in Southern California, Nevada and Idaho in such positions as VP of marketing, VP of integration, area VP of operations and district manager, will no doubt serve him well in his new post, which will prove instrumental in delivering on Supervalu's goal of delivering quality, freshness, value and service.

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