- Albertsons has named Omer Gajial, a former Amazon and PepsiCo executive, as senior vice president of pharmacy and health, the supermarket chain announced on LinkedIn.
- Gajial replaces Mark Panzer, who recently left Albertsons for undisclosed reasons, according to a report in Chain Drug Review.
- Albertsons has a history of looking outside the company to fill senior roles. The grocer’s president and CEO, Vivek Sankaran, was named to his role in March 2019 after serving in a series of top posts for PepsiCo North America.
Gajial’s appointment represents a strategic adjustment for Albertsons as the supermarket chain looks to raise its game in the wellness space at a time when other large retailers have also been energizing their healthcare operations.
Grocers, which have long operated pharmacies in their stores, have joined the ongoing effort by companies in the retail pharmacy industry to expand their role in providing healthcare services to consumers.
For example, Kroger has been drawing attention to its healthcare unit, Kroger Health, investing in efforts like providing access to COVID-19 tests and helping people understand medications. Walmart, meanwhile, has been adding in-store health clinics to its stores as part of a project it began last year.
“We’re learning a lot about healthcare. With five clinics open it’s enough to just really get our toe in the water and understand how the business can work, but we definitely know there’s a need,” Walmart U.S. President and CEO John Furner said recently during a conference sponsored by KeyBanc Capital Markets, referring to Walmart’s growing number of in-store health clinics.
Gajial comes to his position at Albertsons with a range of retail-related experience at Amazon and PepsiCo, according to his LinkedIn profile. By comparison, his immediate predecessor, Mark Panzer, focused his career on the pharmacy industry, holding senior roles at chains including Osco Drug stores and Rite Aid, before becoming head of pharmacy, health and wellness for Albertsons in 2015.
Gajial is arriving at Albertsons after spending nearly five years at Amazon, where he most recently served as general manager of category development in North America. Before taking that post, Gajial was general manager of softlines and consumables for Amazon Marketplace, and earlier spent 15 years in a variety of posts for PepsiCo, where he helped market dairy products and served on a team that worked with Walmart.
“While I will miss working with an incredible group of Amazonians, I am equally excited to reframe, scale and build new health and pharmacy solutions for millions of customers,” Gajial wrote on LinkedIn.
Another top Albertsons official who arrived from outside the company is Chris Rupp, a former Microsoft executive who became the grocer’s executive vice president and chief customer and digital officer in December 2019. In 2017, Albertsons hired Narayan Iyengar, who helped lead e-commerce operations for Disney, as senior vice president of digital marketing and e-commerce.