Retailers

Sprouts Nabs Kroger Private Label Guru Gil Phipps as New CMO

High-profile hire continues remaking of senior staff
Photograph courtesy of Kroger Co.

Gil Phipps, who helped lead The Kroger Co.’s wildly successful private label business, is joining Sprouts Farmers Market as its new chief marketing officer, effective immediately.

He will report to Sprouts CEO Jack Sinclair and will oversee the retailer’s marketing, advertising, customer engagement and private label teams.

“We’re extremely pleased to welcome Gil to the Sprouts team,” Sinclair said in a statement. “The experience Gil brings will be instrumental in shaping Sprouts’ long-term strategy to build brand awareness and loyalty with our core shopper, including strengthening and defining our private label business.”

Phipps brings more than 20 years of experience in marketing strategy, branding and private label development to Sprouts. He most recently was Kroger’s VP of branding, marketing and “our brands” in 2012. At Kroger, Phipps was heavily involved in the development of the Cincinnati retailer’s Simple Truth brand, which took natural and organic and the “pure foods” trend to mainstream retail and helped private brands become a leading sales driver and competitive advantage driver at Kroger.

Phipps' addition to the Sprouts team continues a refurbishing of its senior staff led by the appointment of Sinclair a little less than a year ago. Sinclair has spoken of a desire to remake the retailer behind a more distinctive offering. The company recently added Trader Joe’s President Doug Rauch to its board.

“I am extremely humbled to join Sprouts, a brand that I’ve long admired for innovation and purpose,” Phipps said. “Providing communities access to healthy, affordable foods is more important today than ever before, and I look forward to helping the brand connect even further with customers nationwide in meaningful ways with the products they need and desire.”

Kroger officials said late last year that Simple Truth holds 32% share of the natural and organic branded foods category and that it grew by 16.6% vs. 2018 to $2.3 billion. Private Selections, focusing on premium and specialty offerings, was growing by 7.7% to nearly $2 billion in sales. The national brand equivalent Kroger label had sales of more than $13.3 billion and grew by 3.5%.

Kroger stores, on average, stock more than 16,000 private label items, accounting for 27% of its sales.

Phipps, who cut a distinctive figure behind a bushy beard, stylish clothes and eyeglasses, often spoke as a guest at industry conferences, describing how innovation based on customer data insights drove Kroger’s private label business.

Prior to joining Kroger, Phipps spent more than 11 years at H-E-B where he held various positions, including most recently director of own brands, where he oversaw branding, innovation, product development, packaging and design. Before that, he led new product development and category management for Hormel Foods.

He started his grocery career in 1987 as store director of Fresh Plus Grocery in Austin, Texas, and moved on to roles such as brand manager for Guiltless Gourmet and brand marketing positions at Michael Angelo's Gourmet Foods.

Phipps earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin.

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