Why We Are Calling Out H-E-B

The Lempert Report
March 03, 2021

It’s unusual for me to call out a particular supermarket, after all we work with and report on them all – the good and the bad - but H-E-B, a chain that I have long admired, deserves added recognition.

Charles Butt, today’s Chairman & CEO’s grandmother founded the chain in 1905, his dad then nourished and Charles became president and grew it from $250 million a year into well over $30 billion.  H-E-B is an extraordinary supermarket chain that has grown to more than 340 stores in Texas and Mexico and includes the cutting edge Central Market which . But you don’t need a history lesson – what we do need is to see how this supermarket reacted during the catastrophe in Texas over the past couple of weeks. Snowstorms, lack of electricity and clean water, bursting water pipes that destroyed peoples homes – it was all over the nationwide news. So was H-E-B is donating $1 million to support food banks throughout the Lone Star State; and being called out for the donation by Ellen DeGeneres on her television show. Yes, it is a lot of money, but it’s hardly a new thing for H-E-B. The company gives away tens of millions of dollars in cash and in-kind donations annually to Texas nonprofits, and Charles Butt is the leading individual supporter of public education in the state. “The roots of the Spirit of Giving at the company I have headed over the past 50 years are directly traced back to my parents’ decision in 1933 to contribute 5 percent of our pre-tax income to charitable causes. We’ve kept that pledge through changes in tax rates and other variables,” Butt wrote in his Giving Pledge letter in 2018. A Washington Post article reported on February 19th that  store managers in H-E-B’s store in Leander allowed shoppers to leave the store with essential groceries without paying -- after the store lost its power and ability to ring up customer purchases. The San Antonio Report shared a Facebook posting by Tim Henny, who was in the store with wife Deb when the power was lost and the lights went out, went viral. “I salute H.E.B. for the kindness they showed us, the thoughtfulness they showed us, the generosity they showed us, and the caring that they showed us (along with the other hundreds of fellow Texans in the store at that time),” Henny wrote. “From the bottom of mine and Deb’s heart, we will never forget what you did.”

And that’s why we are calling out H-E-B as one of the true leaders in our industry.