Randy Riley started his career with fruits and vegetables as a produce clerk in a Kroger store.
“I’ve done every job you can imagine in produce — produce coordinator, produce buyer, promotional planner, category manager,” he said.
He still finds produce fun.
“It is ever-changing — there is nothing mundane about it,” he said.
Today, Riley is director of produce merchandising for Kroger and is admired for his breadth of knowledge.
Riley is a strategic thinker and is always looking for new and innovative ways of solving complex issues within the produce industry, said Chuck Sinks, president of sales and marketing for Sage Fruit Co. LLC, Yakima, Wash.
“Randy is a big proponent of using industry knowledge in conjunction with data to formulate strategies, measure results and make adjustments as needed to drive sales,” Sinks said.
“It is no surprise that he has experienced incredible career growth and has helped Kroger continue to be a retail leader.”
Sinks said Riley works to gain a deep understanding of each produce category, including the successes and challenges faced by suppliers.
“He is very open-minded, willing to listen to any concerns, and wants to cultivate true partnerships with Kroger suppliers,” Sinks said, adding that Riley is among the best and most well-spoken leaders when he speaks at industry events.
In his development in produce, Riley credits the influence of Monica Garnes, former vice president in produce for Kroger.
“She and I have worked together multiple times in different capacities and I always appreciated her approach and effectiveness,” he said.
Riley helps lead produce sales for a retailer with a very big footprint.
About 11 million consumers walk into Kroger stores across the U.S. every day. Kroger is the largest organic fresh produce retailer in the nation, Riley said, with sales of more than $1 billion annually for the past three years.
“Because we strive to be industry leaders, it’s important to stay educated on trends but also be a trend-setter,” he said.
“We want to be the first to market, with the freshest product to provide our customers with the best, healthy choices for their families. We continue to align ourselves with the best suppliers.”
Riley said one accomplishment he takes satisfaction from is drafting a department strategy. That document gives Kroger’s produce team a vision of where the retailer wants to go.
“We want to provide an inspirational experience through fresh, high-quality product and value to match; we strive to serve our customers through food inspiration and uplift by feeding the human spirit,” he said.
Riley said he is passionate about Kroger’s investment in innovation and sustainability.
“Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiative is our commitment to end hunger in our communities and eliminate waste across our company by 2025,” he said.
Riley said following consumer trends is paramount.
The ability to see what customers want to purchase and meet the customers where they are is critical to continued growth, he said.
A single dad with seven girls, Riley said family life keeps him busy at home.
At work with Kroger, Riley said he is focused on providing the best produce to maximize the customer experience. He said he looks for innovative solutions through merchandising, alternative farming and waste reduction. He said Kroger is committed to create the most educated and trained workforce, which also will give customers a better experience.
“One of the challenges is making sure that everybody understands the objectives and goals and are working towards that,” he said.
On a daily basis, Riley said he spends time in unscripted conversations with team members in buying, logistics and sales to reinforce Kroger’s vision of putting the customer in the middle, the focal point of the business.
“It is trying to keep people focused on our mission and pivoting where we have to pivot and that comes through collective discussion,” he said.
“We’re always looking toward the future of the business.”