Chairman, president, and chief executive officer, Supervalu
Education: University of Iowa, BA, 1969.
Career: Supervalu, 1976–1982, director of retail operations, merchandising director, and vice president of marketing, JM Jones division; 1982–1985, president, Fargo and Miami divisions; 1985–1988, corporate vice president, merchandising; 1988–1992, senior vice president, marketing; 1992–1995, corporate executive vice president and president; 1995–2000, chief operating officer, Distribution Food Companies; 2000–2001, president and chief operating officer; 2001–2002, president and chief executive officer; 2002–, chairman, president, and chief executive officer.
Address: Supervalu, PO Box 990, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55440; www.supervalu.com.
■ Jeffrey Noddle may have been born with supermarkets in his blood and the lyrics of "food, glorious food" from the musical Oliver on his brain. He certainly believed in the local touch. Noddle grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and two of his brothers preceded him into the supermarket business with a regional supermarket chain in the Omaha area. His older brother later became an executive with a supermarket firm in the Midwest before starting his own real-estate development company. Jeff and his other brother stayed in the food industry, with the brother being an executive of another major U.S. food retailer.
During the early 1970s Noddle worked for a company that operated discount retail supermarkets alongside discount department stores, worked in Miami, ran a store in Louisiana, and was a sales director in Los Angeles. He joined Supervalu in 1976, rising to president and CEO in 2002, succeeding former CEO Mike Wright. Noddle felt that as the sixth largest company in the grocery channel, Supervalu clearly had established itself as an industry leader.
Supervalu, indeed, is a major force in the supermarket business. "We're not always well understood, simply because we operate many different banners in different niches in the grocery industry—but Supervalu today is a $20-billion-plus company" ( Wall Street Transcript ), said Noddle, noting that the company was one of the most successful, and certainly the most profitable, in wholesale distribution and in retailing. Supervalu conducts its retail operations under three formats: extreme-value stores under the retail banner Save-A-Lot; price superstores under the regional banners of Cub Foods, Shop 'n Save, Shoppers Food Warehouse, and Bigg's; and full-service supermarkets under the regional retail banners of Farm Fresh, Scott's, and Hornbacher's. Supervalu holds leading-market-share positions with some 1,400 retail-grocery locations, including licensed Save-A-Lot locations. Through its Save-A-Lot format, the company holds the leading market position in the extreme-value retailing sector.
Noddle decided that the company would be better served by accelerating the growth of its extreme-value format Save-A-Lot chain. As in other competitive retail businesses, the company wanted to strengthen its market position as well as exit less profitable markets. "Rather than spreading [the company's capital] over a large network, we're targeting our capital toward fewer markets that offer the best opportunities," noted Noddle ( Wall Street Transcript ). In another strategic change, he added, Supervalu would revamp its distribution business to position itself as a fully integrated supply-chain business. Noddle saw that the company had previously operated primarily as a food marketer, supporting some of the top independents, ranging from single-store niche operators to multistore regional operators. Supervalu recognized this business as having reached its growth potential, with slow growth predicted in the future, Noddle added. "We're focusing on repositioning ourselves within the supply chain, rather than just operating as a food marketer in support of others in the retail food business," ( Wall Street Transcript ), he said, pointing to a strategy of cutting costs, incorporating new technologies, and reorganizing many company functions.
CEOs of food-distribution companies worry increasingly about the tremendous competition in the field, particularly as Wal-Mart expands its massive supercenters and the number of retailers entering the grocery business continues to grow. Finding and keeping good workers is another challenge. Supermarket CEOs are faced with the difficult task of wringing positive results out of an environment full of negative influences. "We believe there's going to be a battle for consumers, and those who can execute right at the local level are going to ultimately win, whether it's a supercenter or anyone else," Noddle said ( Progressive Grocer , January 1, 2004). Noddle kept a close eye on the growth of aggressive competitors, but he felt that new challenges were a permanent feature of the food-retailing business.
"We've put a lot of stress on delivering our retail business and in support of the independents we serve on the distribution side being very local in our merchandising and marketing," he said ( Progressive Grocer , January 1, 2004). He added that Supervalu believed very strongly in the local touch and that consumers would respond to those companies that did the best job within their markets. "The decisions as to what people are going to buy, how to price goods in the market, what to advertise, what to display—those kind of decisions, we believe, you leave in the local market," he added ( Wall Street Transcript ).
Noddle was also involved in many industry and community activities. He served on the boards of the Food Marketing Institute, Food Distributors International, Donaldson Company, IGA, and General Cable Corporation. He served on the board of trustees for the Boys and Girls Club of the Twin Cities and chaired the major-firms division of the Twin Cities United Way campaign.
See also entry on Supervalu Inc. in International Directory of Company Histories .
Fosse, Lynn, "Interview with Jeffrey Noddle," Wall Street Corporate Reporter , July 9, 2001, http://www.highbeam.com/library/docO.asp?docid=1P1%3A46791600&refid=ink-g5sk .
"Jeffrey Noddle, Supervalu Inc.," Wall Street Transcript , http://www.twst.com/perl/profile.pl?file=consum/PAA211 .
Major, Meg, "The Bold and the Embattled," Progressive Grocer 83, no. 1, January 1, 2004, p. 38.
Weir, Tom, "What's on Your Worry List?" Progressive Grocer , January 1, 2004, pp. 12–15, http://www.progressivegrocer.com/firc_new/article-display.jsp?vnu-co .