To succeed for more than 140 years, a company must be willing to not only change with the times, but anticipate what’s next. SUPERVALU has been leading the pack for generations, with a history of innovation that spans the invention of the automobile to the vast opportunities afforded by today’s technology. Always looking for new ways to improve efficiency and better serve customers, SUPERVALU is watching for what’s next.
With seed money provided by Hugo G. Harrison, dry goods wholesaling operation B.S. Bull and Company becomes the birthplace of SUPERVALU. Over the next several decades, a variety of companies merge and are acquired by the founders of this early wholesaler. The company that eventually emerges from this is Winston and Newell Company. A successful and growing enterprise, Winston and Newell build the first modern grocery warehouse in Minneapolis. Innovations include a chute allowing products to move between floors without elevators. Winston and Newell become the first distribution company to use motorized trucks for deliveries.
Affiliation with the Independent Grocers Alliance (IGA) introduces concepts including self-serve and cash-and-carry, gives independent retailers competitive advantages against the increasing power of retail grocery chains and lays the groundwork for the company’s close affiliations with independent retailers, which will continue throughout the company’s future.
1930 and 1931 are expansion years, as the company opens divisions in Fargo, Des Moines, Bismarck and Aberdeen. In 1937, they begin handling high-volume perishables including potatoes, onions, oranges and apples, creating an increasingly convenient procurement process for retailers.
1940's and 1950's
The company aligns retailers it serves to form a "virtual chain", streamlining processes and developing extensive services that emphasize nationally advertised brands, store fixture and layout advice, and supported advertising. In return, retailers operate under the Super Valu and U-Save names.
The company adds frozen food to its inventory in 1942 and a decade later, Winston and Newell is serving more than 560 stores across six states. The following year they pioneer implementation of 100 percent self-service produce departments in their affiliated retail stores.
Winston and Newell changes its name to Super Valu in 1954, more closely aligning the company with its growing base of retailers. They strengthen their presence by acquiring twelve regional food wholesalers in the Midwest, Southeast and Northwestern U.S. distribution expansion continues until the late 1980s.
1960s and 1970s
In-store bakeries gain popularity in the early 1960's and 90 Super Valu stores feature this new amenity. 1962 marks the first year Super Valu ships more than one million tons of merchandise to affiliated retailers. The company also begins using computer technology to streamline retail order processing, warehouse inventory monitoring, truck dispatching and accepting manufacturer shipments. In the decade since its landmark wholesale acquisitions, the company enjoys rapid financial growth. By 1964, the company has grown to 3,960 employees and, two years later, estimated sales by Super Valu retailers exceed $1 billion for the first time, making the company one of the grocery industry's most powerful players. Only seven retail supermarket chains in the country have sales of this scope.
Retail grocery square footage increases in the early 1970's. Super Valu affiliated retailers begin installing floral departments as by 1972, the typical supermarket size is 20,000 square feet. Jack Crocker is named CEO in 1974 and the company's distribution business continues to expand. By the end of the decade, Super Valu operates eleven distribution centers; the Fargo facility, having opened in 1979, maximizes efficiency, space utilization and energy conservation.
1980s and 1990s
Mike Wright is named CEO in 1981. During the 1980's, Super Valu acquires Minnesota-based Cub Foods, which operates five stores in the Twin Cities; by 1988, Cub is operating 45 additional stores. The company's wholesale business now operates a fleet of 900 tractors and 1,800 trailers, which travel 55 million miles each year. By 1988, Super Valu's affiliated retailers' combined sales make them the second largest food retailing group in the United States. The company is now serving more than 3,100 stores in 32 states.
In 1992 Super Valu modifies the company name to SUPERVALU, INC. and celebrates the 50th anniversary of retailing and retail support under the SUPERVALU name. Acquisitions continue throughout the 1990's. SUPERVALU deepens its Midwestern distribution operations and adds SHOP 'N SAVE and SAVE-A-LOT to its portfolio by acquiring St. Louis-based Wetterau, Inc. in 1992. Seven years later the company completes the $1.2 billion acquisition of Virginia-based Richfood Holdings. This provides significant distribution penetration in the Eastern seaboard and adds three brands to SUPERVALU's retail portfolio: Virginia's FARM FRESH, SHOPPERS Food Warehouse in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore-based Metro (converted to SHOPPERS in 2003 and 2004). By the end of the decade, SUPERVALU handles 15% of the nation's food distribution business, serving both affiliated and corporately-owned retail stores from coast to coast.
2000s - Today
Jeff Noddle is named Chief Executive Officer in 2001, following more than two decades of leadership by Mike Wright. In 2002, Noddle is named chairman of the board in addition to his position as president and CEO. This is also the year SUPERVALU launches SVHarbor, an industry-leading, Internet-enabled business-to-business portal for affiliated and corporate retailers, manufacturer partners and distribution centers.
In 2005 SUPERVALU introduces W. Newell, a specialty produce distribution company combining the company's long-standing heritage in produce, extensive produce retailing knowledge and market-leading position in food distribution.
In 2006, SUPERVALU acquires the premier retail properties of Albertsons, Inc. This transaction propels the company to the position of third-largest grocery retail company in the United States. The following year, East View Innovation Center opens on the company's home office campus in Minneapolis. This facility houses the majority of the company's business operations as well as state-of-the-art test kitchens, sensory laboratories and grocery store department prototypes for increasingly sophisticated planning.
In 2009 Craig Herkert is named president and CEO, following nearly a decade of leadership by Jeff Noddle.
In 2012, Wayne Sales is named president and CEO of SUPERVALU to help SUPERVALU reposition itself in the grocery wholesale and retail sector. The following year SUPERVALU divests several retail chains, including Albertsons, Acme, Shaw's and Jewel-Osco, allowing the company to refocus on its industry-leading logistics and grocery wholesaling expertise, affiliated retailers and smaller regional chains. In 2013 Sam Duncan is named president and CEO, replacing Wayne Sales.
Mark Gross is named president and CEO in February of 2016. In December of 2016 SUPERVALU completed the sale of Save A Lot. Today the company is looking toward the future with renewed energy and focus on growth in its primary business segments: Wholesale and its five strong regional retail banners: CUB FOODS, FARM FRESH, HORNBACHER'S, SHOP 'N SAVE and SHOPPERS.