It’s been quite a journey from the bright lights of Otago Boys High School in the seventies and a first job as Four Square delivery boy at Wakari Four Square in Dunedin but you could say the writing was on the wall with that first taste of the cooperative as a young lad for Steve Anderson, CEO Foodstuffs South Island.
Supermarkets perhaps seemed an unlikely fit for Anderson, who completed a Bachelor of Science (Geology) with Honours and a Master of Business Administration (Marketing) at Otago University before heading off to London on his OE. After starting work at Shell Chemicals, New Zealand Ltd, Steve was subsequently relocated back to London to work at Shell International Chemical Company. He returned to New Zealand and took on a role at Mainland Products which was to be the beginning of his journey back to the supermarket cooperative.
After five years as General Manager of Sales at Mainland Products, Anderson took on the role of CEO Foodstuffs South Island Ltd, and after an action-packed 20 years is ready to hand the reins over to a new leader who will continue to grow and develop the cooperative as it delivers on its mission to ‘feed the South Island’.
Russell McKenzie, Chairman Foodstuffs South Island has worked with Anderson for over 20 years and describes him as a proud Southern man who outside of work enjoys mountain biking, fly fishing and his family life. Over the years Anderson has had many achievements taking the turnover of Foodstuffs South Island from $1.2 billion in 2000 to $3.3 billion in 2020 – this growth has required some ambitious decisions over the years which has stretched the cooperative at times, but the results have been impressive.
The establishment of the Food for Thought Trust, a Foodstuffs initiative which is also delivered by the Heart Foundation, which sees nutritionists go into schools and educate year 5 and 6 students on how to make healthier food choices, has been a particular highlight for Anderson. The programme has educated over 180,000 students in over 2,100 schools since its inception in 2007.
“Helping our young people understand the nutritional choices they can make so they are set up for future success with their health is something Anderson is deeply passionate about and the success of the programme is a real credit to his commitment to give back to the communities in which we operate,” said McKenzie. “This is one of the driving forces behind the role of the Foodstuffs (South Island) Community Trust which was established in 2001 with the sole purpose of giving back to South Island communities. The Trust supports individuals, schools, charities and community organisations making funding available to provide support with community welfare, education and cultural and recreational activities across the South Island.”
Over 20 years there have been many highlights for Anderson, “I really enjoy seeing an owner move through from their early days owning a Four Square, to taking on the larger stores such as a New World or a PAK'nSAVE – seeing them progress their careers over time and play a part in that development has been hugely satisfying.”
A few other projects stand out for Anderson including the opening of the expanded distribution centre at Hornby in 2015.
“At the time it was the largest supermarket distribution centre in the country and the purpose-built building was not only designed to bring efficiencies to the business in terms of supply chain but to be leading edge in terms of design and ability to withstand the earthquakes Canterbury is now so well known for. From a state-of-the-art picking module to storage systems constructed to deal with the forces generated by seismic events and specially developed post-tensioned concrete flooring, the building was carefully designed to behave predictably during earthquake events,” said Anderson.
McKenzie said across all aspects of the business Anderson has driven growth and development. “Market share has significantly increased with the cooperative delivering consistent growth over the years and a number of critical projects have contributed to this success including the roll out of SAP 11 years ago and the launch of New World’s Clubcard in 2014 which has enabled the business to use data to meet customers’ grocery needs more accurately.”
Anderson couldn’t step down without acknowledging the hard work and commitment from the entire Foodstuffs South Island team and the New Zealand supplier community put in during times of crisis during his tenure as CEO. The September 2010 and February 2011 Christchurch and Canterbury earthquakes required the team to pull together as never before but it is with a sense of immense pride that Anderson recollects the long hours put in by the team and their fierce determination to ensure Foodstuffs’ commitment to ‘Feed the South’ was delivered upon.
“The team’s response to the Canterbury earthquakes, and more recently our response to COVID-19, has shown that no matter what curve balls mother nature throws at us, Foodstuffs South Island is in great shape to deliver on our promises to our customers,” said Anderson. “Making sure our communities are supported and have access to a reliable supply of products on shelf is our number one priority and the long hours people have worked to ensure this occurred during the earthquakes, recent COVID-19 lockdowns and alert level changes is something I am extremely grateful for. Without their personal sacrifices we would not be able to ensure New Zealanders have access to the everyday essentials they need.”