Bill Bennett, vice president and head of e-commerce at The Kroger Co., is leaving the supermarket retailer to become CEO of Innovative Food Holdings (IVFH), a direct-to-consumer e-commerce platform focused on specialty food.
Plans call for Bennett to start at IVFH on Feb. 28, at which time current chief executive Sam Klepfish is slated to step down but remain as chairman to help with the leadership transition, the Bonita Springs, California-based company said.
IVFH connects leading artisan food makers from around the world with top chefs and food aficionados nationwide. Owned online retailer brands on its DTC platform include iGourmet.com and Mouth.com. The company noted that its reach with both specialty foodservice B2B customers and consumers makes it a resource for artisanal food producers, CPG brands, chefs and shoppers.
“I am thrilled to join IVFH at such an exciting time,” Bennett said in a statement. “The company’s profitable third-quarter results and record third-quarter sales reflect accelerating momentum and a strong infrastructure that is well-positioned for future growth. Sam [Klepfish] is a proven e-commerce executive and thought leader, who has built IVFH into a leading direct-to-consumer and direct-to-chef specialty food platform. I am excited to continue building on the foundation he created.”
Bennett has served as VP and head of e-commerce at Cincinnati-based Kroger for more than three years. In that role, he oversees the company’s $10 billion e-commerce business, leading an enterprise-wide go-to-market and growth strategy as well as cross-functional partners in marketing, merchandising, product management, supply chain, technology and analytics.
Before coming to Kroger in 2020, he spent over seven years at Walmart, most recently as vice president of merchandising operations. His experience at the retail giant also includes e-commerce and store leadership roles spanning finance, merchandising, strategy, analytics and product management. He joined Walmart in 2018 from S.C. Johnson, where he led the pricing strategy team, and previously served in various leadership roles in sales and category management at General Mills.
“IVFH’s unique set of assets, supplier relationships, fulfillment capabilities and e-commerce expertise strongly position its platform for further growth and scale. I believe these capabilities will allow us to lean into our specialty foods marketplace business with broadline distributors, onboard new brands as a full-service third-party logistics provider, and build sustainable DTC businesses with unique customer offerings,” Bennett commented. “With our DTC portfolio of iGourmet.com, Mouth.com, and Plantbelly.com, IVFH has differentiated brands with a unique, on-trend value proposition. The opportunity to lead IVFH is incredibly exciting for me as we work to further grow IVFH’s leadership position, unlocking significant value for IVFH shareholders. I look forward to updating shareholders in the coming months on our plan to do so.”
One of Bennett’s key accomplishments at Kroger has been his recent stewardship in the grocer’s rollout of Ocado-automated customer fulfillment centers (CFCs) and supporting “spoke” sites to help fill online grocery orders. The facilities are aimed at expanding the capacity and reach of Kroger Delivery service, including to areas where Kroger doesn’t operate brick-and-mortar stores.
At IVFH, Bennett will lead B2B and DTC digital commerce platforms generating trailing 12-month revenue of $77 million.
“Bill offers a unique and success-driven skillset,” Klepfish stated. “He combines an entrepreneurial, high-emotional-IQ management style, with an impressive background and proven track record as an executive at leading and complex consumer companies. On behalf of the board and leadership team, we are excited to welcome Bill to IVFH. I look forward to working with him as he further grows the company and enhances shareholder value.”