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Whole Foods Adds Talent from Walmart and Theranos to Executive Team

Carol Ortenberg

Natural products retailer Whole Foods Market has reached into the ranks of mainstream consumer, drug, and coffee in adding three key hires to its executive team.

In a shift from marketing giant tubs of mustard to tiny crocks of imported moutarde, Sonya Gafsi Oblisk has departed Walmart’s Sam’s Club (where she was VP of Marketing) to join the WFM team as Global VP of Marketing.

Oblisk has a robust background working with CPG brands and retailers — though largely with products that have never seen the inside of a Whole Foods. Past roles include Sr. Director of Private Brands for Sam’s Club, Global Marketing Manager for the Coca-Cola Company, Brand Manager and then Director for Philadelphia Cream Cheese, and Associate Brand Manager for Velveeta.

Another former Walmart exec, Brooke Buchanan, also is heading to the retailer as Global VP of Communications. Most recently the VP of Communications for the beleaguered blood testing company Theranos, Buchanan will now only have to worry about overpriced asparagus water.

Buchanan has worked with other retailers in the past, as VP of Communications at Williams Sonoma and as Sr Director of Corporate Communications at Walmart. Earlier in her career, she was Communications director for US. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and was the National Press Secretary for McCain during his 2008 Presidential campaign. How that will square with Whole Foods Co-CEOJohn Mackey, who tends to support libertarian policies, we don’t dare speculate.

The two hires come out of one previous job: from July 2014 to February 2016 Jeannine Davis D’Addario served as WFM SVP Chief Marketing & Communications Officer.

Finally, Martin Tracey joins the retailer as Global VP of Team Member Services. Tracey most recently served as VP of Talent Management at Starbucks. The shift to WFM comes as Starbucks has received praise for its efforts to support team members (including offering tuition reimbursement benefits, widening workers’ health-insurance options, raising wages and increasing stock rewards).

Whole Foods has notably been laying off employees of late.

The new Global VPs will be tasked with helping the retailer rebuild the sinking profits of its flagship line of stores while juggling the release of its new line of “budget” 365 by Whole Foods Market stores.

The retailer has struggled to shake off the moniker “Whole Paycheck” as well as compete with club stores (such as Costco) which increasingly are bringing in more natural and organic products.

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