October 09th 2020

What the heck does the consumer want?

MCI Distinguished Guest, Horst Leitner, CEO Hofer KG, Sattledt


Horst Leitner (rechts), CEO von HOFER KG, mit MCI-Rektor Andreas Altmann. Foto:MCI
Horst Leitner (rechts), CEO von HOFER KG, mit MCI-Rektor Andreas Altmann. Foto:MCI

Consumers wants and needs depend on individual values, the respective life situation and the level of income, explains Horst Leitner in his MCI talk 'What the heck does the consumer want'.

The desires and expectations of consumers and how their consumer behavior ultimately unfolds can be extremely different, explains Horst Leitner. Surveys repeatedly show how important it is for customers to be able to purchase regional products and to have a well-functioning local retail structure in their neighborhood. Nevertheless online shopping increases because it is often more practical and also cheaper.

This ambivalence shows that consumers often act differently than how they actually want to, creating a demanding challenge for retailers that they must deal with intensively.

Animal welfare is an ideal example to understand the complexity of what consumers expect from food retailers better. The welfare of animals is very important to most Austrians. Hofer KG identifies itself with this value and offers two different product lines in its assortment, which offer sustainably produced meats and are accordingly more expensive. Interestingly enough, only 10% of the fresh meat sales derives from these two product lines, although this topic is so important within society.

The situation is similar when it comes to regional products, which are clearly demanded by customers. However, as soon as the same product from Southern Europe is 20-25% cheaper, regionalism suddenly plays a negligible role in the choice of purchase.

Horst Leitner emphasizes: "As a consumer, you should not underestimate the influence you have. Food retailers react very sensitively to buying trends. Retailers can only sell what consumers purchase. You have to be aware of this power and responsibility".

Horst Leitner goes on to explain that from a corporate perspective it is important to understand how to deal with these ambivalent behavioral patterns. On the one hand, it is essential to know the purchasing decisions of customers and, on the other hand, to pursue a clear product line. As an entrepreneur, you have to be aware that you cannot always be everyone’s darling, as it is much more important to maintain the loyalty of customers in the long term.


Horst Leitner

With 1,000 branches and 21,000 employees in Switzerland, Italy, Hungary, Slovenia and Austria, HOFER KG is one of the most successful food retailers in Central Europe. In Austria, HOFER is actively committed to climate protection, has been working 100% CO2-neutral since January 2016 and even received the Energy Globe World Award for their efforts.

On December 1, 2018, Horst Leitner took over the management of Hofer KG as the new CEO.

Leitner has already been with the Aldi Süd/Hofer group for over 26 years. He started his career at Hofer in 1992, after gaining initial professional experience at IBM and studying commercial sciences in Vienna. He took over responsibility for central purchasing of the Hofer Group in 2006, after gaining extensive experience in the areas of sales and central purchasing and holding the position as the managing director of the Weißenbach branch office for three years.

From 2011, Horst Leitner initially held the same position for Central Purchasing at Aldi USA.

In 2016 Horst Leitner was appointed member of the national board of directors of Aldi USA.

Horst Leitner holds a master's degree in banking from the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration.

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