"Ahold Delhaize has more knowledge than Amazon and Alibaba"

Frans Muller, Ahold Delhaize
Frans Muller, Ahold Delhaize

Online is growing by 30 to 40% at Ahold Delhaize, says Frans Muller, who has been the CEO of the merger group for a year now. The advantage of the supermarkets compared to online giants such as Amazon or Alibaba? Food is local, according to Muller.


Sustainability and responsibility a must

Retailers have to take up their responsibility, says Frans Muller, who has been the CEO of Ahold Delhaize since July 1st of last year. That's why the supermarket group is pursuing sustainability and healthy food, employing in-store food experts in the USA and reducing plastic waste. These are some of Muller's insights in a retrospective interview on his first year in NRC Handelsblad.

"We have to contribute," Muller told NRC, keeping the next generations in mind. "How do we counter deforestation? What do we do about the plastic problem?" He understands the public's concern, because "there is no reason not to be concerned," but he does point out that change requires time.

"You often need to have many parties in order to reach critical mass before you can effect these sorts of major changes: governments, suppliers, competitors. You could say we're a big company, with our 62 billion euros of turnover and over 370,000 employees. But for a number of truly complicated things, we're still quite small," said the CEO, who consciously abstains from meat.


“Food is local”

Muller is less worried about the threat of players such as Amazon and Alibaba. He mentions that online sales are growing at Ahold Delhaize by 30 to 40%. "Companies such as Amazon and Alibaba could be a disruptor. But they'll have to prove it first in the food industry, because food is very different from electronics, clothing or books."

"Food is local," the CEO believes. And that's the advantage of the supermarket over the online giants. It also means that the supermarket group has a better grasp on its business as well as its customers: "I think we have a lot of knowledge on fresh food that such parties lack. About buying, transporting, processing food – all knowledge we've built op over the past 150 years."


A huge amount of knowledge about customers

“In addition, about 70 percent of all our sales are made through customer cards. So we have a huge amount of knowledge about the customers who buy food with us." Those giants know nothing about local food preferences and particularities, he states resolutely.

In any case, Ahold Delhaize has a strong foundation and the CEO intends to build on it. The group is now turning towards the US, because Ahold and Delhaize generate two thirds of their group turnover on the American east coast, as well as the historical domestic markets.