Southern supermarket leader leaving long-held role

By Otago Daily Times | Posted: Saturday March 13, 2021

After 20 years at the helm, Foodstuffs South Island chief executive Steve Anderson is stepping down.

It has been quite a journey from Otago Boys’ High School in the 1970s and a first job as delivery boy at Wakari Four Square in Dunedin, but you could say the writing was on the wall with the young Mr Anderson’s first taste of the co-operative.

Supermarkets perhaps seemed an unlikely fit when he completed a bachelor of science in geology with honours and a master of business administration in marketing at the University of Otago before heading off to London.

After starting work at Shell Chemicals back in New Zealand, he returned 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 firm.

After five years as general manager of sales at Mainland Products, Mr Anderson took on the role of Foodstuffs South Island chief executive, and after an action-packed 20 years was now ready to hand the reins over to a new leader charged with developing the co-operative as it aimed to "feed the South Island".

He said his time in the role had featured lots of highlights.

"I really enjoy seeing an owner move through from their early days owning a Four Square, to taking on the larger stores ... seeing them progress their careers over time and playing a part in that development has been hugely satisfying.”

A project that stood out was 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."

Mr Anderson was proud of Foodstuffs’ role in helping the Christchurch community cope with the earthquakes.

"The team’s response to the Canterbury earthquakes, and more recently our response to Covid-19, has shown that no matter what curveballs Mother Nature throws at us, Foodstuffs South Island is in great shape to deliver on our promises to our customers.

"Making sure our communities are supported and have access to a reliable supply of products on shelf is our No1 priority, and the long hours people have worked to ensure this ... 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."

The establishment of the Food for Thought Trust, a Foodstuffs initiative also delivered by the Heart Foundation, was another highlight.

It sent nutritionists into schools to teach year 5 and 6 pupils about healthy eating.

More than 180,000 pupils in 2100 schools had taken part in the programme since its inception in 2007.

Foodstuffs South Island chairman Russell McKenzie said Mr Anderson was a proud Southerner who enjoyed mountain biking, fly fishing and family life — and had taken the turnover of Foodstuffs South Island from $1.2billion in 2000 to $3.3billion in 2020.

That growth had required ambitious decisions over the years, which had stretched the co-operative at times, but the results had been impressive.

Thank you to the ODT for the use of this article.