- Frans Muller is reportedly set to replace Dick Boer as chief executive officer of Ahold Delhaize as early as this week, according to Belgian newspaper De Standaard. The newspaper did not give its sources, and a spokeswoman for Ahold Delhaize declined to comment when contacted by Food Dive.
- When Ahold and Delhaize Group merged two years ago, Boer, then chief executive of Ahold, became CEO of the merged company, while Muller became deputy CEO and chief integration officer.
- With Muller taking over as Ahold Delhaize CEO, Boer would become chairman of the Supervisory Board, replacing Mats Janssen, the former chairman of Delhaize. At the time of the merger, Muller was also named acting chief operations officer of Delhaize America. Last month, former Ahold USA chief operating officer Kevin Holt was named CEO of Ahold Delhaize USA.
European news reports have given few clues as to the reason for the executive change, and a spokeswoman for Ahold Delhaize declined comment when contacted by Food Dive.
De Standaard indicated the companies have discussed this succession since the merger was being negotiated. Frans Muller, the report noted, pushed for the two companies to combine, and has overseen the joining of their operations since then. Observers widely see the merger as successful, and Ahold Delhaize has said it plans to see $879 million in cost savings over the next three years as a result.
However, the company’s stock took a hit, from which it has struggled to recover, when Amazon bought Whole Foods Market last summer for $13.7 billion. To remain competitive, Ahold Delhaize's U.S. banners, which include Stop and Shop, Food Lion, Hannaford and Giant stores, are focused on staying up-to-date and efficient. At Food Lion, the “Easy, Fresh and Affordable” initiative, focused on better store layouts and assortment, has been a positive. Giant-Carlisle has boosted sales with an improved beer and wine selection. Hannaford has a new private-label focused loyalty program and updated store models.
Comp sales were up 0.6% at Ahold USA stores, and up 1.5% for the Delhaize division in its most recent financial quarter.
Ahold Delhaize is also focused on improving its online sales. It's teamed up with third-party provider Instacart in numerous markets, and is pushing for better performance from its pure-play offering, Peapod. Online sales increased 23.2% in the fourth quarter, reaching a total of $3.5 billion in 2017, although it was unclear what contribution Peapod, the company’s online arm, made. The company said last fall it plans to increase spending on e-commerce by 50% this year.
There was talk of a merger-acquisition with the Kroger Co. last year, which Boer downplayed in an interview, saying that the company’s current integration efforts are keeping it too busy to consider any such deal.
Ahold Delhaize faces the same stiff competitive headwinds as other supermarket companies. Amazon, Walmart and Aldi are formidable opponents. Under Boer, the European giant has been doing many of the right things to get in position for the future of food retailing, and Muller appears to be ready to continue the job.