UDA Named Kroger Supplier of the Year
In a record setting decision, UDA was named Kroger's Supplier of the Year for 2009. This is the first time a co-op has ever received the award twice; UDA also won that distinction in 2007.
"What makes this even more remarkable," said John Hitchell, Kroger General Manager, at the Nov. 18 presentation, "is that UDA is a single supplier with a single product. Many of our vendors represent a number of manufacturers, with a variety of products." So, UDA's selection by the Tolleson Plant represents an extraordinary achievement.
Larry Haller, General Manager of the Tolleson Plant, explained the choice in more detail. "We made a commitment in 2009 to not let customers suffer during 2009, when Phoenix was hit especially hard with the economic downturn," he said. "So we offered great deals on milk, and UDA came through with extra milk deliveries whenever we asked for them, even on occasions when it was to the detriment of the UDA plant."
This was among the last public activities for Larry Haller, who is retiring after 42 years with Kroger. Keith Murfield, UDA CEO, congratulated Haller for his successful career and acknowledged the positive working relationship he helped to foster with UDA. The presentation took place with a small gathering of UDA Managers on Nov. 18, all of whom were recognized by Murfield as being instrumental in earning the Supplier of the Year Award.
Hitchell also acknowledged UDA's positive response to Kroger's recent Quality Initiative, which established tougher quality assurance requirements. "There was no pushback from UDA on this customer-driven program," said Hitchell. "Not only are the averages where we want them, but virtually every load meets the new requirements. This provides the increased freshness, shelf-life and quality we were looking for."
Murfield took advantage of the gathering to inform the Kroger representatives of UDA's selection of Kroger Pharmacy as its preferred supplier of prescription drugs for UDA employees. He also helped those in attendance appreciate the scope of Kroger operations, as well as its importance to UDA.
Kroger is UDA's third largest fluid customer, out of a top six which constitute 70% of UDA sales. With 3, 619 stores, Kroger is the largest chain grocery store in the US, and includes Ralph's, Fry's, as well as jewelry and convenience stores. Founded in 1883, Kroger now has 40 manufacturing plants, enabling their various stores to stock roughly 32% of their products from Kroger plants.
The presentation concluded with Haller's relating a humorous anecdote that underscored UDA's commitment to quality. "We've rejected only one load of milk from UDA for high temperature," he said. "And we were wrong. Tom O'Carroll said there was no way the milk could have been warm - and it turns out, we had a bad thermometer!"