CINCINNATI – After 38 years of service, David Dillon, who led The Kroger Co. leadership team's development of the company's successful Customer 1st Strategy, plans to retire on Dec. 31 as chairman of the board. Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chief executive officer, has been elected to the additional post of chairman by the Kroger board of directors effective Jan. 1, 2015. McMullen has served on the board since 2003.

Dillon was Kroger's chairman from 2004-2014 and chief executive officer from 2003-2013. Earlier on, he held a variety of executive positions at Kroger and Dillons Companies, which merged in 1983. During Dillon’s tenure as CEO, Kroger increased revenue by $45 billion, created 53,000 new jobs, reduced costs for eight consecutive years and returned $9.2 billion to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends, which were reinstated in 2006.

As part of the Customer 1st Strategy, Dillon and McMullen, who was then serving as vice chairman, created and executed a long-term price investment strategy that Kroger top management said has enabled it to deliver sustainable business growth and shareholder returns, while saving customers nearly $3 billion annually through lower prices. This laid the foundation for Kroger's growth plan, which was initially announced in October 2012. It expands the Customer 1st Strategy by accelerating growth in Kroger's core business and improving the company's connection with all customers; expanding Kroger's presence in new and existing markets; and innovating to create unique competitive positioning for today and the future.

As a result of Dillon's leadership, Kroger became a leader in supermarket sustainability. It has reduced energy consumption in stores by 35 percent since 2000 and reduced its carbon footprint by 4.4 percent since 2006. More than half of the company's 37 manufacturing facilities are zero-waste. Kroger provided families struggling with hunger with 250 million meals – 4 million meals per week – in 2013.

"For Dave, Customer 1st – which truly put our customers at the center of how Kroger runs its business – was more than a successful business strategy,” McMullen said. “It was a philosophy that he believed and lived through his actions every day, and as a result he inspired thousands of our associates during his many years of service to Kroger and Dillons Companies. He understood that Kroger's greatest asset is the trust that our customers, associates and shareholders have in our company. We are all the beneficiaries of Dave's extraordinary leadership."