31 March 2022

CEO of the Foodland Group Franklin Dos Santos

Franklin Dos Santos

CEO of the Foodland Group
Bachelor of Arts (Liberal Studies)
Graduate Certificate in Business (Marketing)

When Franklin Dos Santos walked into the Erindale Foodland Supermarket for his first casual shift at 18-years-old, little did he know three decades later he would be leading the entire organisation: an iconic South Australian business, synonymous with fresh and local food.

As CEO since July 2020, Franklin has guided the organisation, with its 95 independent grocery stores from Ceduna to Mount Gambier and 7,000 people within them, through a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic.

In just under two years, Franklin has been able to implement an innovative branding strategy and food manufacturing incubator projects, with a renewed focus on sustainability and local brands, all while navigating an ever-changing marketplace plagued with supply chain issues and restrictions.

Franklin’s extensive and unique professional life, where he’s experienced all aspects of the industry from filling supermarket shelves to senior roles in brand management, has prepared him well for the ambitious task.

Franklin Dos Santos in front of a Foodland store

While studying a Bachelor of Arts (Liberal Studies), and later a Graduate Certificate in Business at the University of South Australia, Franklin found his calling in the marketing space.

He believes tertiary education cannot provide everything, but it’s the perfect place to broaden your outlook, strengthen your ability to learn, and it provides you with the tools and language to excel.

“My time at UniSA gave me discipline and the opportunity to learn new terminology that I still use today. Most importantly it taught me to have an enquiring mind,” Franklin says.

“UniSA builds homegrown talent in the market.”

After university, Franklin joined food manufacturer and distributer Goodman Fielder, where he was exposed to invaluable experience in sales and marketing, and operational and strategic thinking. Here, he was empowered to make decisions, but also held accountable for them.

Then, during his four years as a State Manager at wholesale distributer Metcash, Franklin learned about creating family wealth through independent grocery stores, how to work with global brands and create value for suppliers.

Franklin Dos Santos in the Fruit and Vegetable section of a Foodland store

It was after these experiences that Franklin branched out with his brother in owning and flipping several Foodland and IGA supermarkets. This proved to be an enormous learning curve as, he says, when you’re a store owner you wear many hats, including payroll, inventory, IT, human resources, health and safety, all preparing him for the chaotic world of retail.

“Being an owner is a real eye opener, as you wear so many hats, because you are not just a retail store. I’ve had a full breadth of experience to be able to help lead an organisation like Foodland successfully,” says Franklin.

“The world is chaotic, and business is chaotic. Don't think for a minute when you're entering the workforce or a new business that it's going to be structured and always linear.

“There will always be disrupting circumstances, like COVID, that you have to deal with, and if you're not aware of the chaos, then you're stagnant and you're not making innovations.

“If you're not being innovative, you're going backwards.”

Franklin Dos Santos front of store treating a pooch to a drink

Throughout his lifetime in the retail and food industry, Franklin has been buoyed by a string of inspiring and empowering leaders. His own bosses have always encouraged him to have a go, learn from failure and be empowered to be able to make decisions.

Being afforded these opportunities at a young age made all the difference. Nurturing the next generation of business and retail professionals is something Franklin now takes very seriously as a leader in his organisation.

Franklin finds great satisfaction in giving his team opportunities to thrive and a safe space to fail, expecting and preparing them to leave Foodland one day to work for multinational corporations. He has plenty of sage advice as well.

“The advice I would give to my younger self is always look for opportunities. Don't be frightened to step up and participate in new projects – make sure that you have as much of a breadth of knowledge as possible. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into, say, a brand marketing role. If you start as a marketer today, you may end up as a CEO later if you focus on becoming a generalist instead of a specialist,” says Franklin.

Franklin Dos Santos in store at Foodland

“In order to be a CEO, you do have to know a little about a lot and you can only get that through broadening your experiences. You should always aim to hire people who know more than you do.”

Ultimately, what Franklin loves most about a local family-minded, innovate organisation, like Foodland, is this very breadth of opportunity, even in day-to-day life: in the same week you could be a marketing manager, or involved with the community and sponsorships, or you may be helping a new small family business establish their own brand and product.

Franklin’s enjoyed seeing his employees grow into new and fruitful stages of their lives, including many young people who join Foodland at 14 years of age in their first job, who then progress through high school into to trades, tertiary education or even senior roles within the organisation of the retail industry.

As a passionate supporter of local business in South Australia, Foodland provides so many jobs and opportunities to develop and grow. It’s just another way in which Franklin and Foodland give back to the community.

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