- Albertsons appointed Vivek Sankaran as its new president and CEO effective April 25, the company said in a press release. Sankaran was named CEO for PepsiCo Food North America in December.
- Sankaran was chosen for his expertise in CPG, retail, manufacturing, technology, logistics and research and development, Albertsons' current president and CEO Jim Donald said in a statement. These are key issues facing Albertsons and other retailers in the current omnichannel environment.
- Donald will continue as co-chairman of the board for Albertsons alongside Leonard Laufner, who was appointed to the role last October. Current chairman Robert Miller will assume the role of chairman emeritus and will remain on the board of directors.
Sankaran’s impressive resume with a globally recognized company in PepsiCo should help strengthen Albertsons’ executive ranks — bringing to the company an executive with deep insight into the food industry that will help Albertsons improve its offerings both in store and online.
Albertsons just tapped Donald to be CEO in September following its failed merger between Albertsons and Rite Aid. During his brief tenure, Albertsons reported two quarters of positive earnings and invested in a partnership with Microsoft to enhance its in-store technology and further drive the store’s omnichannel capabilities. While it appears to be on the right track, the Idaho-based grocer is keenly aware that it can't let up in a space where Walmart, Amazon, Kroger and other grocers are investing heavily and positioning themselves to better address changing consumer buying habits.
Sankaran will have his hands full at Albertsons. The company, which is backed by Cerberus Capital Management, has repeatedly tried to return to the public markets through an IPO, or most recently with the proposed merger with Rite Aid. In addition, Albertsons has a heavy debt load, and while it has made meaningful progress to reduce it, Sankaran will have to focus on further reducing this balance while not losing sight of the grocery side of the business.
Albertsons is trying to implement competitive e-commerce and in-store experiences through a number of initiatives. Most recently, Albertsons partnered with technology company Glympse to provide shoppers with real-time updates on their grocery pickups and deliveries. The company has discussed testing out a cashier-less model and also is piloting robots for online order fulfillment. Albertsons also launched an online marketplace for food, household and wellness products late last year.
The grocer remains dedicated to its brick-and-mortar locations. Last year, it rolled out a nationwide remodeling effort to modernize many of its stores and add food-friendly features to attract new customers. In Boise where Albertsons is headquartered, it also has opened two flagship stores that boast in-store bars, wine cellars, high-quality seafood and meat counters, made-to-order foods and more. In addition, Albertsons has a strong presence in private label with lines such as O Organics and Lucerne.
With nearly 2,300 stores and 270,000 employees, one of Albertsons’ biggest challenges is integrating efforts across its sprawling brand portfolio, which includes banners such as Safeway, Jewel Osco, Vons, United Supermarkets and Shaw’s. Sankaran’s background with multiple brands and his track record of innovation and technology with Frito-Lay and PepsiCo will be essential in shaping the company’s direction and creating a cohesive offering for shoppers.