Sprouts Farmers Market said on Thursday it has named restaurant industry veteran Alisa Gmelich senior VP and chief marketing officer of the Phoenix-based chain, which is seeking to grow its digital marketing capabilities.
She fills a post that apparently had been vacant at the retailer since the departure of former CMO Gilliam Phipps earlier this year.
Gmelich, with 25 years of marketing, branding and loyalty-program experience, most recently was chief brand officer at franchised soft-pretzel chain Auntie Anne’s, and before that was VP of marketing at IHOP, where she led the restaurant chain’s customer growth strategy, nation programs and menu innovation. Before that, she led a marketing team for Burger King Corp. as director of U.S. sales, field marketing.
She will report directly to Nick Konat, Sprouts’ president and chief operating officer, and will oversee Sprouts’ marketing, advertising, and customer engagement.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Alisa to the Sprouts team,” said Konat. “Her experience in building brands and growing customer engagement will be instrumental in shaping Sprouts’ marketing strategy to support our expansion and deepen loyalty with our customers.”
Sprouts was recognized earlier this year for its mobile app-based loyalty program, which offers digital coupons and other functionality.
In a recent call with analysts, Sprouts said it has been focused on ramping up its marketing efforts via personalized communications such as email and text messaging. In the third quarter, the company said active email accounts increased by 19%, text accounts by 42% and mobile app downloads by about 15%. About 7.5% of transactions were tied to loyalty customers, up about 50% vs. last year, and the baskets of loyalty customers almost 70% higher than non-loyalty baskets.
Gmelich’s previous employer, Auntie Anne’s, also has a mobile app-based loyalty program called Pretzel Perks.
Sprouts, which operates more than 370 stores across the country specializing in natural and organic products and value-priced produce, is also known for its community tie-ins, such as its recent Day of Service volunteer event series.
“I am extremely humbled to join Sprouts, a brand that I’ve long admired for innovation and purpose,” said Gmelich. “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.”