In just a few years, we’ve grown GrocerKey from a young startup into a thriving organization transforming the face of grocery retail. But we couldn’t have done it without the talents and perseverance of our amazing team. Read our spotlight series to meet the GrocerKey staff, hear their insight into the industry, and learn about the incredible work they are doing — inside and outside of the company.
Matt Gutermuth describes his role as being a “facilitator.” As GrocerKey’s Chairman of the Board, Matt has been instrumental in helping GrocerKey connect with industry insiders and growing the business in the right direction. With long stints at major CPG brands such as Nabiso and Pepsi-Co, and retailers like Safeway and Winn Dixie, we couldn’t be more excited to have his expertise on board. Learn more about Matt’s journey in the grocery industry below.
How did you get your start in the grocery industry?
I was born in the food and beverage space. My father worked for Nabisco for over 40 years, and he ran the selling organization for 11 of those. My father was my hero and I followed in his footsteps. I first worked for Pepsi-Co, and stayed in CPG for more than 14 years. My father hired a bunch of my college friends and after he retired, they were all encouraging me to “Come home,” so I did. I worked through [Nabisco’s] merger with Kraft. While with Kraft/Nabisco, I was approached by the CEO of Safeway, Steve Burd, who asked me to consider a career in retail. After a bit of reflection, I became a “retailer” and went to work for Safeway.
What did you do there?
I was a merchant; I ran beverage, snacks, alcohol, and tobacco, and was referred to internally as “the VP of Sin!” After a couple years, I was approached by Brian Cornell and asked to turn around a new business that was struggling. Brian believed in the future of eCommerce, but needed someone to prove that the business opportunity was real. It was a stroke of luck, which led me to Safeway.com where I fell in love with this digital business. I was asked to be president and CEO [of Safeway.com] and this opportunity fundamentally changed my career.
That was the early days of eCommerce. What was that like?
We had low single-digit growth rates and were hemorrhaging cash. They basically gave me six months to make something of the business, or they were going to shut it down. We doubled the top line, and became profitable about a year ahead of schedule. Safeway decided to acquire the company outright and bought out TESCO and some other early investors. I led the company through the merger & acquisition and into Corporate Safeway. Around that time, Winn Dixie was coming out of bankruptcy and needed to rebuild and reposition, a brand that was once one of the largest grocery store chains in the country. I lead the Merchandising team at Winn-Dixie, and after 4 years of hard work, we were bought by a Private Equity company and became Southeastern Grocers. Our executive team disbanded after that deal closed, and I went to work for SYSCO and got the opportunity to learn about the “other side of the food industry”; the restaurant world.
That’s quite the journey! How did you get involved in GrocerKey?
We made the decision to move back to Florida, and my wife talked me into going out on my own and doing something that really excited me. As a supplier, retailer, early tech pioneer, and food service business executive, I wanted to help young companies that exist in the food and beverage space accelerate their businesses and become successful.
I got a chance to meet Jeremy Neren (GrocerKey co-founder & CEO), and he was incredibly compelling. I wanted to see him in-action, in-store. We spent two days in Woodman’s and that sealed the deal. I thought ‘This is going to be big.’ GrocerKey was doing all the right things. I wanted to help GrocerKey scale, so I joined their board, and a year or so later, Jeremy asked me to be his Chairman.
What do you think sets GrocerKey apart from its competitors?
Most grocery retailers do not have the capital, insight, or capabilities to handle eCommerce themselves. And unlike other third-party solution providers, we do it in a way that enables retailers to hold on to their unique differentiators; we don’t steal their customers. If third-party solution providers win, they are going to “Amazon-ify” the whole retail landscape. Very simplistically, GrocerKey is here to save retail.
What motivates you inside of your work?
I am a people-first leader. I love interacting with folks and helping them succeed, and very much enjoy my role as a facilitator of relationships. I connect people to people.
Favorite way to wind down?
I am an avid sports enthusiast — if it’s got a scoreboard, I’ll watch it. I believe sports are a microcosm of life. It teaches you to win, lose, and to do both gracefully. You learn to work with a team and consistently improve. It creates such wonderful lessons in life.
What music are you listening to these days?
It’s evolved over the years; right now I’m in a Country phase. I went through Hard Rock, Folk; I even got into Rap.
Any book recommendations?
I just finished “The Smartest Guys in the Room,” about the Enron story. I’ve also been reading “Bad Blood,” about the rise and fall of Theranos.
What’s in your grocery basket?
That has changed a bit over the years for sure! Today, you will find a lot of fresh produce (great to eat with hummus). On the Protein side of things, we enjoy different varieties of seafood and chicken…and every now and then a good steak! We like to create our own Charcuterie Boards, and indulge with a variety of cheeses paired with our favorite wine … and of course a little Lindt dark chocolate to finish it off!