Delhaize should innovate faster and Ahold Delhaize CEO Dick Boer feels Albert Heijn CEO Wouter Kolk should show the Belgians how. He also talked about Amazon and bol.com in the remarkable interview.
Nice revival for AH, Delhaize could perform better
Innovation is key to supermarkets nowadays and Albert Heijn is doing well in that sense, but Delhaize is still not up to speed according to Boer’s interview with NRC Handelsblad. “Albert Heijn Netherlands has displayed a very nice revival over the past three years. We can easily see that Albert Heijn’s stores are innovative, which is very important to a supermarket nowadays”, he said.
Delhaize should be able to innovate faster, partially thanks to closer ties with suppliers. “They could come up with new ideas and you can get those on the shelf fast”, he advises. Is it a deliberate move to spark the flame in a highly tense situation within the company or just an unfortunate mediatized statement? No one should be too sentimental about it: “Delhaize is the most important brand in Belgium and it needs to do well. The merger has a sentimental side, but both the board of commissioners and the board of directors have said that the merger exceeds both Belgium and the Netherlands.”
Healthy convenience arrives in the US
Dick Boer also talks about much more than AH and Delhaize in the interview: the merger company is one of the largest supermarket companies in the United States and it obviously has a lot riding on that region. Fresh and healthy convenience products are the focus of its strategy, alongside its online grocery service Peapod. “The fresh and healthy trend is also slowly taking over the United States”, Boer said. “We are introducing a lot more convenience items in the United States, like sliced fruit and vegetables, something we transferred from the Netherlands.” Freshly-baked bread, right there in the supermarket, is also a new addition.
Boer also wants to “be able to create more volume” with its online supermarket Peapod, but that will bring it closer to Amazon and Walmart. “How can we better service a city like New York? If we want to create more capacity, we need to have growth, more than the rather small growth we have now.” The competition is getting more fierce, he admits, especially with omnichannel’s increased importance and the fact that online pure players realize they also need physical stores.
Nevertheless, the CEO is not afraid of Amazon: “There are many things that do not bother them, but they clearly struggle with fresh food home delivery, which is obviously harder to achieve.” Amazon can be “jealous” of Ahold Delhaize, which has a lead when it comes to knowledge and infrastructure regarding fresh food delivery.
Data also for customers
Ahold Delhaize is currently trialing same-day grocery delivery, both in Washington and Rotterdam. “I think the continuous retail evolutions are keeping us awake all the time. Where we found it completely acceptable to order one day in advance some ten years ago, consumers now think: I will get it tonight.”
Dick Boer thinks Bol.com’s acquisition was mainly interesting because of the way it deals with data, which is crucial in tomorrow’s supermarket world. Ahold Delhaize used to apply data for its logistics, but Boer also wants to use it for the customer’s benefit.
The CEO also believes in “nudging”, the subtle art of enticing your customers to buy something healthy. Supermarkets can help people do that, he feels. “You can buy a well-known brand’s ketchup, but that contains so much sugar. Besides, the Albert Heijn brand also has that issue. However, there is also an organic, non-sweetened ketchup and if you can point that out, you will help the customer to make a better choice. That is where there are incredible opportunities for us as a company.”