AMSTERDAM: Ahold, the Dutch-owned international grocery retailer, is focusing its efforts on freshness, convenience and a large online offering, its chief executive has said.

Dick Boer told McKinsey, the consultancy, that Ahold, which operates approximately 3,000 stores – mainly supermarkets – across Europe and the US, was aiming to fulfil the daily needs of consumers.

He pointed out that where once consumers went to hypermarkets, they could now get many of the same items via the internet, so they had to have a reason to go to a store.

"Supermarkets ought to focus on the experience of fresh foods," he said. Convenience was also important, as "smaller stores are a great opportunity to get closer to the customer".

Boer stressed the need for an online offering as an extension of the store, where people could be surprised at what they found. "Maybe the authentic Tuscan olive oil isn't on the store shelf, but you can find it online," he suggested.

By 2016, he aimed to reach €1.5bn in online food sales, and one of the ways he hoped to achieve this was through the development of pickup points for online shoppers, as home delivery had limitations.

He indicated that the number of pickup points in Albert Heijn stores would expand rapidly during 2013, and that standalone pickup points near highways exits were being trialled, the latter idea being one he felt would work well in the US.

Mobile was another area Ahold was looking at closely. It already offers an app that allows people to share recipes and shopping lists, order groceries and specify delivery times.

For the future, Boer said that mobile payments and the integration of loyalty cards with smartphones were areas that needed to be developed.

Boer was also clear that Ahold would continue to operate its various local brands and had no intention of subsuming them under one name. "Our brands have a local heritage, and customers have a long relationship with those brands, so changing them into one global brand is not in our plans," he stated.

But he went on to describe the business as "a global family of local brands" that viewed things the same way and had a "common language".

Data sourced from McKinsey; additional content by Warc staff