Kraft Heinz has today announced that chief executive Bernardo Hees is to step down and be replaced by Miguel Patricio, an executive at drinks giant Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev).
The US food company said that Patricio, who is Portuguese, will on 1 July take over the post from Hees, the Brazilian who has held the job since 2015.
The news comes amid a difficult patch for Kraft Heinz, which was formed by a merger in 2015 and makes famous products such as Heinz baked beans and tomato ketchup and Kraft macaroni cheese. In February the company disclosed that it was the subject of a US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) probe over its accounting policies.
At the same time the company, which is part owned by famous investor Warren Buffett, suffered a $15bn (£11.5bn) writedown and slashed its dividend by more than a third, citing a tough market for packaged food, sending its shares crashing.
For the quarter ended 29 December, Kraft Heinz had a net loss of $12.6bn. Its market capitalisation now stands at $40.8bn, compared to the $89bn valuation it achieved when it floated on the stock market in 2015.
Kraft Heinz will hope Patricio’s market experience will help turn its fortunes around. Patricio has worked at AB InBev for two decades as global chief marketing officer and president of Asia Pacific, among other roles.
Shares in Kraft Heinz, which is the fifth-biggest food company in the world, rose 1.5 per cent on the New York Stock Exchange shortly after opening, to stand at $33.46.
“Kraft Heinz is an incredible company with iconic brands that are loved around the world,” Mr. Patricio said. “It will be a privilege and an honor to lead such a talented group of employees as we focus on the consumer to capitalize on the growth opportunities that exist in the rapidly evolving food industry.”
Alex Behring, chairman of Kraft Heinz’s board of directors, today said: “Miguel is a proven business leader with a distinguished track record of building iconic consumer brands around the globe, driving top-line revenue growth through a focus on consumer-first marketing, innovation, and people development.”
Marcel Herrmann Telles, a member of Kraft Heinz’s board of directors, said: “I want to personally thank Bernardo Hees for leading the Company through its first phase.”
He said: “From attracting and nurturing the best talent to leading the turnaround of the AB InBev China business into the phenomenal success it is today, Miguel has one of the best brand-building minds in the industry.”