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Target names grocery veteran Anne Dament to reinvent food business

Retailer will nearly double number of brands and products in the organic and sustainable arena

Target Corp. has named a 20-year grocery and consumer product industry veteran to help revamp the retail chain's food business.

The Minneapolis-based retailer said Monday that it has hired Anne Dament to the role of senior vice-president, merchandising with food and essentials, a position that had been vacant since late last year.

Dament's most recent job was at PetSmart, where she was a vice-president of services. Before that, she had worked at Safeway, where her last job was as group vice-president of perishable strategy at Safeway. She started her career in food, as a buyer at Supervalu and she has also had stints at ConAgra Foods subsidiary Grist Mill Co. and Otis Spunkmeyer.

Target is working to overhaul its food strategy over the next 12 to 18 months as part of its plan to revive its overall business. Target plans to emphasize six key categories that resonate most with its customers: better-for-you snacks, coffee and tea, premium sauces and oils, specialty candy, wine and craft beer, and yogurt and granola. It also is expanding its assortment of natural, organic and gluten-free products. Shoppers will see the most significant changes in food in 2016, the company said.

The reinvention is being spearheaded by Brian Cornell, a former PepsiCo executive who took the helm as CEO last August and is charged with reclaiming the retailer's image as a purveyor of cheap chic fashion merchandise. He replaced Gregg Steinhafel, who resigned last May amid a massive data breach that hurt sales and profits. Even before Cornell took the top job, Target had begun to reassess its operations, sprucing up its baby departments and adding mannequins to its fashion areas. Cornell wants to double down on a handful of areas like fashion, children's products and home furnishings. It's trying to re-energize its clothing department and will launch this weekend a limited-time-only collection with Lilly Pulitzer.

But grocery is a big priority since it drives customer traffic to its nearly 1,800 stores. Target lost its way during the Great Recession when it aggressively expanded into basic groceries, distilling its cheap chic image. Food along with pet supplies accounted for 21 per cent of Target's total sales in the latest fiscal year.

As part of its food strategy, it's nearly doubling the number of brands and products in the organic and sustainable arena under an initiative launched a year ago called Made to Matter. The program challenges its brands and new suppliers to come up with new products or new twists. Executives believe the collection of 16 brands and over 100 individual products could hit $1 billion this year.

"Our guests tell us they expect Target to inspire them with differentiated food offerings like we do in other areas,'' said Cornell in a statement. ``We have an opportunity to make food more reflective of our brand, elevate the shopping experience and make Target a food destination for our guests.''

Cornell noted that having worked alongside Dament at Safeway, he knows she has the ``proven ability to reinvigorate existing businesses.'' At Safeway, Dament worked with Cornell where he was the grocery chain's chief marketing officer from 2004 to 2007.

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