- Sprouts Farmers Market has appointed J. Scott Neal to the newly created role of chief fresh merchandising officer, the company announced Monday in a press release. Neal will start on June 15 and will report to CEO Jack Sinclair.
- As chief fresh merchandising officer, Neal will oversee Sprouts’ fresh merchandise offerings. Prior to this, Neal served for eight years as the senior vice president and general merchandise manager for Walmart’s fresh food division. Neal also held executive roles for Walmart in bakery, meat and international merchandising across his 24-year career at the company.
- In a statement, Sprouts CEO Jack Sinclair said Neal will help the grocer deliver on its recently announced long-term growth strategy, which includes building a more efficient supply chain and deepening loyalty among health-conscious consumers.
Sprouts is poaching highly experienced managers as it begins to implement its long-term growth roadmap. Last month, the grocer announced it had hired Kroger's private label architect, Gil Phipps, as chief marketing officer — a step towards the company's goal of refining its branding and marketing.
Neal, who worked closely with Sprouts CEO Jack Sinclair at Walmart, brings a wealth of experience in fresh foods at the nation's largest retailer to the table. That should help Sprouts build a more efficient supply chain, which is also one of its main long-term growth goals. The grocer wants to build out sales with existing customers and the many health-conscious shoppers in markets across the U.S., as well, and open smaller stores in target markets.
Sprouts has always been heavily focused on produce and natural products, but specialty grocers are under pressure to further refine their strategies. Earlier this year, Lucky's Market and Earth Fare both filed for bankruptcy, in large part due to non-specialty competitors that sell many of the same goods for less.
During Neal’s tenure at Walmart, he oversaw quality control and merchandising of produce, as well as meat and seafood. Walmart’s fresh category underwent significant changes during his time with the company. The retailer added more organic and local options, remodeled its produce sections to create an open-market feel and sped up its supply chain to offer fresher produce. As a result of this refresh and a focus on e-commerce, Walmart's food and grocery sales are driving the company’s growth.
“Scott joins us at the perfect time to leverage his deep experience in fresh merchandising and sourcing as we begin to implement our long-term growth strategy by creating an advantaged fresh supply chain to bring better-for-you options and innovative products to support our customers’ healthy lifestyles,” Jack Sinclair, CEO of Sprouts, said in a statement.