Albert Heijn, innovative Ahold leader, dies at 83

AMSTERDAM — Former Ahold senior executive Albert Heijn, who helped lead the overhaul of the Dutch-based supermarket giant in the 1960s and 1970s, died peacefully Thursday at his home in the United Kingdom, the company announced. He was 83.

Heijn was the grandson of Albert Heijn, who founded Ahold’s predecessor company, the Albert Heijn supermarket business, in 1887. Heijn joined the company in 1949 and rose quickly through the ranks to become president of the executive board in 1962. Together with his brother Gerrit-Jan, Heijn “led the transformation of the company from a Dutch supermarket chain into a major international food retailing group,” Ahold announced.

“He created a grocery empire on the deceptively simple premise that doing what is right for the business starts with doing what is right for the customer,” the company noted. “Following his retirement in 1989, he remained involved in Ahold, the holding company created in 1973, as a member of the supervisory board until 1997.”

Among his notable achievements, Heijn introduced the first full-service grocery stores in the Netherlands and “brought a much wider selection of products to the Dutch public than had been seen before,” Ahold noted. “Perhaps one of the most significant contributions he made to the global food retail industry was his role in the establishment of a uniform bar code that remains the global standard today,” the company said.

Ahold CEO John Rishton called Heijn “a remarkable man,” as well as “a spirited entrepreneur whose vision has helped shape the global food industry. He was a warm and charismatic leader who was passionate about people — both those who worked for the company and all who shopped at our stores. My thoughts, and those of my colleagues on the corporate executive board, are with his wife Monique and their family.”