Publix Super Markets’ CEO Todd Jones is a prime example of how the country’s largest employee-owned grocery chain is known for nurturing the careers of its workers.
In 1980 Jones began working as front-service clerk—aka a bagger—at a Publix store in New Smyrna Beach, assuming more positions until becoming store manager in 1988. He then embarked on the corporate ladder, leading the local district in 1997 and two years later, becoming the regional director for the Jacksonville region.
After Jones and his team were able to successfully boost Publix’s share of the Jacksonville market—in part by capitalizing on Winn-Dixie’s decline, Jones was placed on the executive track. In 2008, he was named the company’s president, and in 2016 became CEO, the first non-member of the founding Jenkins family to lead the Lakeland, Fla.-based company since the first Publix opened in 1930.
Industry sources at the time said that Jones was a natural choice.
“You hear a lot of great things about how knowledgeable he is within the business,” Supermarket News retail editor Jon Springer told the Orlando Sentinel. “He is a hands-on guy. He’s worked in every part of the industry and he’s a doer as well as a leader.”
Publix is now one of the 10 largest-volume supermarket chains in the country, with 1,213 stores, nine distribution centers and 11 manufacturing facilities. The grocery employs more than 190,000 people and it’s last reported annual sales was $34.6 billion in 2017.
Under Jones’ leadership, Publix is expanding a separately-branded store, GreenWise Market, to compete with the likes of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
The brand is geared toward “natural and specialty customers,” with organic produce and cheeses, antibiotic-free meats, vegan items and an expanded line of GreenWise seafood certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as coming from sustainable fisheries. Stores also include a beverage bar serving kombucha, local craft beer, wine, smoothies and locally-roasted coffee, and a large mezzanine where customers can eat and “connect.”
In October, the company opened the first GreenWise Market in Tallahassee, Fla. and six additional locations across the Southeast are slated to open this year.
Publix has also strengthened its partnership with grocery delivery service Instacart by making it available at all of its locations. The company is also experimenting with the service, and has filed plans with the City of Tampa’s zoning board to create an “Instacart staging room” and event-planning office inside a South Tampa store.
But what really sets Publix apart is its customer service, as workers of the employee-owned company have a particular stake in how it performs, Jones told the Sarasota Business Observer.
Employees who want to rise at Publix should have “skin in the game” and purchase Publix stock, he said. Then, “learn as much as you can about the business and be totally committed.”
The grocer is known for its numerous awards, including “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Supermarket Pharmacies, Eight out of the last Ten Years” by J.D. Power; one of the World’s Most Valuable Brands in Brand Finance magazine (2018); Retailer of the Year by Store Brands magazine (2017); one of Fortune‘s Most Admired Companies (1994–2018); one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” for 20 consecutive years (1998–2018), which earned Publix recognition as one of the Great Place to Work Legends; one of the Great Rated! “Best Workplaces in Retail,” “Best Workplaces for Women,” “Best Workplaces for Diversity” (2017) and “Best Workplaces for Millennials” (2018).
He’s No. 85 on Chief Executive and RHR International’s CEO1000 Tracker, a ranking of the top 1,000 public/private companies.
Todd Jones, CEO of Publix
Headquarters: Lakeland, FL
First joined company: 1980
Prior to joining Publix: N/A
Named CEO: 2016