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Dutch grocer and innovator passes away

Albert Heijn, the man responsible for turning his family's Dutch grocery chain into the international retailing giant Royal Ahold, passed away on 13 January aged 83.

Heijn joined the family business in 1949 as a salesman, working his way up to become chief executive in 1962. The family business traces its roots back to 1887 when Heijn's grandfather started a grocery store in the Netherlands. Today, Ahold is among the biggest retail chains in the country with more than 800 outlets, and owns more than 3,000 supermarkets world-wide.

Heijn retired in 1989, but remained on the supervisory board until the late 90s. Following his retirement, he moved to England and settled down in the village of Pudlestone, Herefordshire. He and his fourth wife, Monique became involved in philanthropy. They started a new company named Eign Enterprises, which although initially popular, proved unprofitable and had to sold.

Heijn was known for being innovative and making customers his first priority.  He pioneered the usage of a standardised bar code system in supermarkets, and introduced the concept of "sell-by dates" and organic products.

The Dutch grocer's motto was: "You don't sell on behalf of your suppliers, you buy on behalf of your customers. I want my customers to feel fun, convenience and trust."
 

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