He replaces Mark Allen, who was promoted to the position of chief executive of Dairy Crest in January.
Oakes left Somerfield at the end of last year after completing the project to outsource all logistics operations to distribution company Wincanton. He trialled 24-hour lead times on fresh produce to increase availability and reduce stockholding, and also rolled out voice-picking technology across depots to improve productivity and accuracy.
Dairy Crest said Oakes would be key to the business and that he would help forge close relationships with farmers and retailers.
"We are delighted to welcome Martin to the dairies division," said Allen. "His wide-ranging business, logistics and retail experience will add tremendous value to its ongoing development."
Oakes added he looked forward to joining the team and "contributing to its future success".