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Welcome to On the Move. In this hiring-focused weekly feature, The Current is rounding up recent arrivals and departures at brands and retailers across the ecommerce and consumer goods landscape.
This week brings a series of CEO updates: a transition at a CPG giant, a departure at a CPG trade association and a new leader at a recognizable personal care brand.
Grant Reid to retire as Mars CEO, petcare head named successor
Grant Reid. (Courtesy of Mars Inc.)
There’s change coming at the top of one of the most recognizable CPG companies this year.
Mars, Inc. CEO Grant F. Reid is retiring at the end of the year, the company announced.
Reid served in the CEO role at Mars since 2014, and spent 34 years at the company. Reid informed the board 18 months ago of his decision to retire, setting up a transition process.
He will be succeeded by Poul Weihrauch, the global head of the company’s petcare division. Weihrauch will start his new role leading the maker of M&Ms, Dove and Pedigree in September.
Among Reid’s achievements, he grew the company’s digital business, and expanded into area such as veterinary health, pet services and healthy snacking. Sales grew 50% to $45 billion, while the number of employees grew from 60,000 to 140,000.
"He has been a tower of strength, helping us charter new courses and pushing us beyond what we thought possible,” Board Chair Frank Mars said in a statement. “He's represented Mars on the global stage, particularly around climate change, and he has ensured that we are known for acting, not just making commitments.”
Reid plans to continue to devote himself to climate action following retirement.
Weihrauch joined the company in 2000, and previously led the Mars food business before taking the helm of the petcare business in 2014.
"I have known Poul for 22 years, working closely with him for the last 10, and I know that he will be a wonderful leader for the next stage of our evolution,” Mars said. "He is known for his inspirational and inclusive leadership style, for growing businesses and renovating brands and for his deep commitment to Associate engagement and development.
Along with the CEO role, Mars made the following executive appointments:
- Loic Moutault, president at pet food company Royal Canin, is to become the global petcare president.
- Cecile Coutens will become global president for Royal Canin.
Consumer Brands Association CEO departs for U.S. Travel Association
Geoff Freeman. (Courtesy photo)
Geoff Freeman is set to transition out of the CEO role of the CPG trade group Consumer Brands Association. He will move into the CEO role of the U.S. Travel Association.
It’s a return trip for Freeman, who previously held a leadership role of the travel trade group. He was also CEO of the American Gaming Association from 2013 to 2018 before taking the top role at the Consumer Brands Association.
Freeman is credited with reestablishing the Consumer Brands Association by defining a new brand identity, growing membership and bolstering the leadership team. The association’s board said it is now a “powerhouse in DC.”
“We are grateful for Geoff’s many contributions to our industry during his tenure at the Consumer Brands Association,” said Jeff Harmening, CBA board chair and CEO of General Mills, in a statement. “The organization enjoys the support of the world’s leading CPG companies and its revenues have increased nearly 50% over the past three years. … Consumer Brands benefits from a strong leadership team, and we are confident in the organization’s continued growth and effectiveness.”
At the U.S. Travel Association, Freeman succeeds Roger Dow, who held the CEO role for 17 years.
“Geoff is highly regarded in Washington and well known across our industry for his strategic work to conceive campaigns and programs that opened new pathways for growth in the travel economy,” said Christine Duffy, national chair of the U.S. Travel Association and president of Carnival Cruise Line. “Now, returning to lead the association, Geoff will continue bringing a fresh and strategic approach to advancing the mission of U.S. Travel in its next era.”
KT Tape names Jessica Klodnicki as new CEO
Jessica Klodnicki. (Courtesy photo)
Drug-free pain relief product company KT Tape appointed Jessica Klodnicki as the company’s new CEO.
"We are thrilled to welcome Jessica to KT Tape," said Mark Schwartz, director and CEO of Palladin Consumer Retail Partners, which is KT Tape's majority shareholder, in a statement. "Her extensive industry expertise, leadership prowess and collaborative energy make her the perfect choice to lead the company through its next chapter of continued growth and innovation."
Klodnicki previously served as chief marketing officer of audio brand Skullcandy. She served as general manager of a portfolio of brands for Vista Outdoors, including CamelBak, Bell Helmets, Blackburn Accessories and more. Prior to that, she served as VP of marketing and brand management at Mizuno USA.
Gymshark appoints O’Brien as VP of marketing
Carly O'Brien (Courtesy phot Gymshark)
UK-based sportswear brand Gymshark appointed Carly O’Brien as its new VP of marketing.
O’Brien joined the company from retailer The Very Group, where she oversaw a team of 200 people. She previously worked at MBNA, Virgin Money and RBS.
“'I had heard a great deal about the culture at Gymshark, but as soon as I walked through the door, I felt that brilliant blend of pure humility and absolute drive to succeed,” O’Brien said in a statement. “The opportunity to bring the marketing team together in the international group, explore all the opportunities to build more brand awareness and be part of the Gymshark journey to build an iconic brand is both bold and exciting.”
Fashion United notes that Gymshark has made a number of recent hires, including Lululemon’s Danielle Petesic as chief product officer and Burberry’s John Douglas as chief technology officer.
Trending in Careers
Campbell Soup Company CEO Mark Clouse offered thoughts on messaging amid inflationary shifts in consumer behavior.
After months of elevated inflation and interest rate hikes that have the potential to cool demand, consumers are showing more signs of shifting behavior.
It’s showing up in retail sales data, but there’s also evidence in the observations of the brands responsible for grocery store staples.
The latest example came this week from Campbell Soup Company. CEO Mark Clouse told analysts that the consumer continues to be “resilient” despite continued price increases on food, but found that “consumers are beginning to feel that pressure” as time goes on.
This shows up in the categories they are buying. Overall, Clouse said Campbell sees a shift toward shelf-stable items, and away from more expensive prepared foods.
There is also change in when they make purchases. People are buying more at the beginning of the month. That’s because they are stretching paychecks as long as possible.
These shifts change how the company is communicating with consumers.
Clouse said the changes in behavior are an opportunity to “focus on value within our messaging without necessarily having to chase pricing all the way down.”
“No question that it's important that we protect affordability and that we make that relevant in the categories that we're in," Clouse said. "But I also think there's a lot of ways to frame value in different ways, right?”
A meal cooked with condensed soup may be cheaper than picking up a frozen item or ordering out. Consumers just need a reminder. Even within Campbell’s own portfolio, the company can elevate brands that have more value now, even if they may not always get the limelight.
The open question is whether the shift in behavior will begin to show up in the results of the companies that have raised prices. Campbell’s overall net sales grew 5% for the quarter ended April 30, while gross profit margins held steady around 30%. But the category-level results were more uneven. U.S. soup sales declined 11%, though the company said that was owed to comparisons with the quarter when supply chains reopened a year ago and expressed confidence that the category is seeing a longer-term resurgence as more people cook at home following the pandemic. Snacks, which includes Goldfish and Pepperidge Farm, were up 12% And while net sales increased overall, the amount of products people are buying is declining. Volumes were down 7%.
These are trends happening across the grocery store. Campbell is continuing to compete. It is leading with iconic brands, and a host of different ways to consume them. It is following that up with innovation that makes the products stand out. Then, it is driving home messaging that shows consumers how to fit the products into their lives, and even their tightening spending plans.
Campbell Soup is more than 150 years old, and has seen plenty of difficult economic environments. It is also a different business today, and will continue to evolve. At the end of the day, continued execution is what’s required.
“If it's good food, people are going to buy it, especially if it's a great value,” Clouse said.