The Kroger Co. has named a new chief merchant and marketing officer to lead the company during one of the most transformative times in the food retail industry.
Stuart W. Aitken, currently senior vice president of alternative business and CEO of 84.51˚, Kroger's data analytics subsidiary, will become chief merchant and marketing officer on Aug. 1. Joe Grieshaber, senior vice president and chief merchant, is retiring after a 37-year career with the company.
Yael Cosset, senior vice president and chief information officer, will assume responsibility for alternative business and 84.51˚.
"Today's leadership announcements are consistent with our positive track record of strong succession planning and will help us to continue to drive transformation of our business and culture, focusing on speed, action and agility to deliver value for our customers and shareholders," said Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and CEO. "We are greatly appreciative of the unique talents and contributions that each of these leaders has provided to Kroger to create a best-in-class experience for our associates and customers."
Grieshaber, who retires Aug. 15, started his career with Kroger in 1983 as a store management trainee in Nashville, Tennessee. Since then, he has served in numerous roles, including as a meat merchandiser and district manager for the Michigan division. Later in his career, Grieshaber was promoted to vice president of merchandising of the Columbus division then assumed the role of corporate group vice president of perishables merchandising and procurement. He was named president of the Dillons division in 2010 and served as president of both the Columbus and Fred Meyer divisions before being promoted to his current role in 2019.
"We thank Joe for his 37 years of service, leading with excellence by developing and uplifting associates and creating and executing innovative, results-oriented strategies," McMullen said. "He's been instrumental to Kroger as an accomplished leader with a passion for people and results, and we wish him all the best in retirement."
In his retirement, Grieshaber and his wife Vickie look forward to spending more time with their children and grandchildren, and once safe, they plan to travel more.
Aitken, currently senior vice president of alternative business and CEO of 84.51˚, will succeed Grieshaber, effective Aug. 1. As chief merchant and marketing officer, Aitken will be responsible for sales, pricing, planning, promotions, execution, analytics, e-commerce and digital merchandising, and Our Brands. He will also retain responsibility for marketing.
"Stuart's outstanding leadership and deep history of putting the customer first through data-driven decisions and personalization will further transform our business for growth," McMullen said. "Bringing together merchandising and marketing under one leader will strengthen our brand promise of Fresh for Everyone."
Aitken was named a group vice president five years ago and has led 84.51˚ as CEO since its inception in 2015. As the leader of 84.51°, Aitken played a critical role in integrating data-based decision making into Kroger's merchandising organization. 84.51° combines customer data, predictive analytics and marketing strategies to drive business decisions, sales growth and customer loyalty using a sophisticated, proprietary suite of tools for Kroger and more than 300 consumer-packaged-goods companies in the U.S.
In January 2019, Aitken was promoted to senior vice president of alternative business, tasked with managing several groups, including 84.51°, Kroger Precision Marketing and Kroger Personal Finance. As head of marketing as well, Aitken guided the company through its Fresh for Everyone brand transformation campaign in November 2019.
Prior to Kroger, he acquired many years of marketing, academic and technical experience across a variety of industries and held various leadership roles with other companies, including Michael's Stores, Safeway, Inc. and dunnhumby USA, where he served as CEO from 2009 to 2015.
Originally from Scotland, Aitken holds a bachelor's degree with distinction from Queen Margaret University and a master's degree in Information Management from the University of Strathclyde. He serves on the boards of InvenTrust Properties Corp. and the Food Marketing Institute. Aitken is also a member of the Cincinnati Business Advisory Council for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
Cosset, senior vice president and chief information officer, will assume responsibility for the alternative profit business portfolio and 84.51°, effective Aug. 1. Cosset will continue to lead Kroger Technology & Digital.
"Yael will continue to play an essential role in accelerating our grocery-to-growth business model," said McMullen. "His exemplary leadership, vision and customer-first obsession to make people's lives easier using technology and data will help us to create more personalized and engaging shopping experiences and drive more trips."
In January 2017, Cosset was promoted to group vice president and chief digital officer, where he led the company's overall digital growth strategy, e-commerce expansion and Vitacost business. He was named senior vice president and CIO in May 2019, assuming responsibility for Kroger Technology and blending two talented teams to form Kroger Technology & Digital. Previously, he served as chief commercial officer and chief information officer of 84.51°.
Prior to Kroger, he held several leadership roles at dunnhumby, including executive vice president of consumer markets, global chief information officer and CEO of KSS Retail – an enterprise software company.
Cosset has been a member of 84.51°'s advisory board for the last three years, helping shape the business's strategy and direction. In February 2020, Cosset was appointed to the Kohl's Corporation Board of Directors.
Originally from France, Cosset graduated from the Classes Preparatoires aux Grandes Ecoles with a major in Mathematics and earned a master's degree from the Graduate Business School - Ecole Supèrieure de Commerce de Chambéry.
In 2019, Cosset was recognized by Business Insider as one of the 10 people transforming retail. And in 2017, he was recognized by Retail Leader as one of the 17 leaders to watch.
Cincinnati-based Kroger employs nearly half a million associates who serve 9 million-plus customers daily through a seamless digital shopping experience and 2,757 retail food stores under a variety of banner names. The company is No. 3 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food retailers in the United States.