Calling out Supermarket News

It is logical that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. president and CEO Mike Duke would top Supermarket News’ Power 50 list of the food industry’s most influential executives. The company sells more food, by a large margin, than anyone else, therefore a case could be made that Duke, or whoever is CEO of Walmart, should top the publication’s list each year.

In reality, plenty of other executives with key leadership roles in the food area at Walmart should be on the list, but aren’t because it appears only one representative per company is allowed.(Click here to view the list.) Just go down the org chart beginning with Walmart U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon. He is the one leading the charge to undo such detrimental elements of Project Impact as SKU rationalization and the elimination of features displays. Next in line would be head merchant Duncan Mac Naughton because he oversees Walmart’s massive merchandising organization intent on re-establishing the company’s every day low price credibility with consumers. The guy who most directly impacts Walmart’s food merchandising efforts is EVP food Jack Sinclair.

Walmart’s other divisions sell a lot of food too. A case could be made for the inclusion of Walmart International president and CEO Doug McMillon as a large percentage of the $100+ billion division comes from the sale of food and same day he will be back in a leadership role in the United States., bringing with him all sorts of interesting ideas about format development and merchandising from time spent in China, India, Brazil, South Africa, etc. And what about Sam’s Club EVP merchandising Linda Heffner? Sam’s is Walmart’s best performing division currently, driving accelerating same-store sales growth through an emphasis on fresh and a commitment to quality that is resonating with Sam’s upper income members.

If the Supermarket News top 50 list were based purely on merit and executives’ impact on the market, as opposed to more arbitrary and possibly political considerations, a strong case could be made for inclusion of each of the executives named above and possibly others involved in packaging development, food safety and supply chain.