Food Lion Co-Founder Dies; Chain Was Rocked By ABC News Report Ralph Ketner helped turn $50 investments in a N.C. grocery store into the Food Lion chain. He was 95. In 1992, an ABC hidden camera report showed employees selling spoiled meat.
NPR logo Food Lion Co-Founder Dies; Chain Was Rocked By ABC News Report

Food Lion Co-Founder Dies; Chain Was Rocked By ABC News Report

The man who helped turn $50 investments in a North Carolina grocery store into the Food Lion chain with more than 1,100 stores across the Southeast has died.

Ralph Ketner, 95, died Sunday, according to a news release from the grocery store chain. No cause of death was given by Food Lion officials or the funeral home handling his arrangements.

Ketner successfully gambled that bigger sales by lowering prices to where profit margins were razor thin were the best path to success.

In 1957, he opened the Food Town grocery store in Salisbury, N.C., with two friends, calling people in the phone book and asking for $50 or $100 investments.

About 125 people gave him money, and that one store grew into the Food Lion chain with stores across the Southeast. With stock splits over the years, an investor who bought $28 in stock originally ended up with $1 million, according to Food Lion.

"He had a profound and lasting impact on the entire grocery industry and he has left a tremendous legacy not only at Food Lion, but through his philanthropy and kindness in the Salisbury community as a whole. Forever a welcome and vital part of our family, even at 95 years old, Mr. Ketner still attended several Food Lion events. Our associates adored and respected him and we will miss him dearly," the company said in its statement.

Ketner remained loyal to Food Lion even after the grocery store was rocked by a 1992 hidden camera report by ABC News that showed employees selling spoiled meat.

Two producers got jobs with the grocery chain without revealing they were reporters. Food Lion sued and was awarded more than $5 million after a jury found the network liable for fraud. An appeals court lowered the verdict to $2, but still found ABC was liable for trespassing because the employees taped other workers without their knowledge.