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Kroger promotes EVP merchandising to EVP and COO

BY Michael Johnsen

CINCINNATI — Kroger Monday afternoon named its executive leadership team to support the company's Restock Kroger Plan.

"Kroger is fortunate to have a leadership team that combines deep experience with creative new talent as we strategically reposition the company through our Restock Kroger Plan," stated Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and CEO.

Fred Morganthall, Kroger's EVP retail operations, will retire after 31 years of service, effective Nov. 30. Mike Donnelly, currently Kroger's EVP merchandising, will assume responsibility for both operations and merchandising as EVP and COO, effective Nov. 1.

Kroger's key lines of business continue to be led by three EVPs who are driving execution of Restock Kroger: Donnelly, Mike Schlotman, who serves as EVP and CFO, and Chris Hjelm, who serves as EVP and chief information officer.

Mike Donnelly Named EVP and COO
"Mike and his team will help us redefine the food and grocery experience for customers and drive sales," McMullen said. "By bringing merchandising and operations together under Mike's leadership, we will build synergies between our teams and accelerate our efforts to establish a truly seamless customer experience."

Donnelly began his career at Fry's Food Stores in California in 1978. He advanced to several leadership positions at Fry's, including district management. He was named VP merchandising for Fry's in 1995 and promoted to president of the Fry's division in 2000. He has served as Kroger's SVP drug/GM, president of the company's Ralphs division and SVP merchandising before being promoted to his current position in 2015.

Fred Morganthall to Retire after 31 Years of Service
Morganthall will retire from the company after 31 years of service, and 44 years in the food industry.

"There are few people in our industry as widely respected as Fred," McMullen said. "He worked tirelessly to establish the Harris Teeter brand and, after our merger, to help position Kroger for future success. We've all benefited from Fred's passion for grocery retail and operational excellence. We are grateful for Fred's distinguished service and many contributions to Kroger and Harris Teeter, and we wish him and his family all the best."

Morganthall's professional life began at Procter & Gamble in 1973. His career in grocery retail began in 1978 at Spartan Stores in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he was responsible for grocery, frozen and dairy purchasing as well as general merchandise and beauty care. In 1986, he joined Harris Teeter as director of grocery merchandising. With Harris Teeter, Morganthall served in a number of executive management positions, including VP merchandising, VP distribution and VP operations before being named president in 1997.

Under his leadership, Harris Teeter grew and firmly established its identity as a retailer that provides exceptional customer service and in-store experience.

After the 2013 merger of Kroger and Harris Teeter, Morganthall was named Kroger's SVP in June 2015. He was promoted to his current role, EVP retail operations, in September 2015.

Morganthall has been an active leader in industry organizations, including serving as chair of the Food Marketing Institute. In 2016, FMI honored him with its most prestigious leadership recognition, the Sidney R. Rabb Award.

 

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NPI brings Amazon and Walmart veteran back into the fold

BY Michael Johnsen

BOCA RATON, Fla. — After a two-year sabbatical, Jeff Fernandez is returning to Nutritional Products International as VP sales and marketing.

Fernandez took a couple of years off to spend more time with his growing family, but his passion for distribution and sales has led him back to Nutritional Products International, where he last served in the same position in 2015.

"We're thrilled to have Jeff back home with us," stated Mitch Gould, NPI CEO. "He was a perfect fit for this position then, and he is again now. He's helped build health and wellness brands into major industry players for more than a quarter-century, and his experience in the field and his professionalism is unmatched."

Fernandez has more than 25 years of experience in the world of retail, working as an HPC buyer for Amazon.com and Wal-Mart Stores, two of the largest retailers in the world.

"I am ready to get back to work and roll up my sleeves," Fernandez said. "I am poised and ready to assist Nutritional Products International to continue its expansion as a global market leader in the health and wellness distribution industry."

 

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Supermarket Wellness Watch: Tops Markets tackles the other side of health

BY David Orgel

At Tops Friendly Markets, wellness has more than one side.

The multi-state food retailer puts an emphasis on health strategies for customers, with a range of efforts from pharmacy to food.

But Tops, based in Williamsville, New York, also prioritizes something else: wellness for its more than 15,000 employees. They are spread across approximately 180 retail locations in New York, northern Pennsylvania, western Vermont, and north central Massachusetts.

Tops pursues a range of initiatives in its “WELL Wellness” program for employees and spouses — from walking to weight loss — that have produced increased participation and measurable results. The latter includes improved outcomes in cholesterol and blood pressure readings.

The employee and consumer sides of wellness connect with each other. Associate programs generate a buzz that shoppers hear about, often from store employees themselves.

“It creates a halo for the company that shoppers notice,” said Gail Marchese, Tops’ manager, Benefits and Wellness. “People are aware of it. It shows we care about our employees and the greater good.”

Tops has succeeded to such an extent that it’s been honored by national and regional award programs. This year it made the list of the 100 Healthiest Workplaces in America (for the third year in a row; Kroger was another supermarket winner). It’s also been cited by regional award programs in upstate New York and Rochester.

Here are some details on Tops’ initiatives:

  • Walking to Tops: This is a six-to-eight-week challenge for employees and spouses to become more active. Participants are split into teams with self-reporting based on pedometer readings.  Last year during the challenge, the teams’ combined activity was the equivalent of “walking around the earth three times,” Marchese said.
  • Weight Loss Challenge:  The Tops WELL Annual Weight Loss Challenge is a team activity, with the winners losing the highest percentage of weight. The level of weight loss increases every year. 

“The first couple of years people were gaining the weight back after the program,” she recalled. “So we’ve introduced ongoing messaging about the need to exercise and eat well, and this includes a nutrition program.”

  • J.P. Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge: Tops employee participation is subsidized, and associates participate heavily in races in the company’s key markets. This includes such New York state locations as Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse.

At least one of Tops’ programs takes an even broader view of wellness. Tops sponsors a financial wellness program for employees to help them develop budgets and save for retirement. How does this connect with health? “It makes them less stressed,” said Marchese.

The wide variety of initiatives for associates helps to make Tops a more desirable employer, Marchese added.

“It attracts candidates and is an incentive for quality candidates,” she explained.

The growing participation of employees across Tops’ programs even includes those at the most senior levels. For example, there was an executive group participating in the walking challenge, which included Frank Curci, Tops chairman and CEO, and John Persons, president and COO.

How did they do? “They weren’t first, and they weren’t last,” said Marchese.

That’s probably another way of saying that for Tops, success isn’t about winning, but rather about the journey itself.


David Orgel is an award-winning business journalist, industry expert and speaker who was the longtime chief editor and content leader of Supermarket News. He is currently the principal of David Orgel Consulting, delivering strategic content and counsel to the food, retail and CPG industries. To read last month’s blog post, click here

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