The owner of Heinz tomato ketchup and Amoy ready meals is attempting to reverse its disastrous start to 2019 with the appointment of a new chief executive.
Kraft Heinz said on Monday that it had hired Miguel Patricio, a veteran of the brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, to replace Bernardo Hees following a slump in the stock market value of the business and the firm’s accounting practices being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
The regulatory inquiry was revealed in February as the company wrote down the value of Kraft and Oscar Mayer brands by $15bn (£11.6bn), posted a $12.6bn loss and cut its dividend by 36%.
Kraft is facing legal claims in the wake of the write-downs, including class action suits from employees and shareholders furious at the losses related to the drop in the firm’s stock market value.
In an interview published on Monday, the Wall Street Journal quoted Patricio as saying he planned to move the ketchup group’s strategy in a new direction after the company’s previous reputation for cost-cutting.
“[Hees] was the first one to admit that he was finishing this cycle with the company and that the company would benefit from having a person with a different background to lead it in the future,” Patricio said.
Patricio will take over the top job at Kraft Heinz in July after spending two decades at Anheuser-Busch, most recently as the brewer’s global chief marketing officer.
Shares in Kraft rose slightly on the news after falling more than 40% over the past year on the back of stalling sales and a cost-cutting drive that is partly blamed for weakening some of the firm’s best-known brands.
The food group said that Hees will return to 3G, a Brazilian investment company that is a significant shareholder in Kraft Heinz and helped create the firm through the 2015 merger of HJ Heinz and Kraft Foods, which was supposed to revive the fortunes of the firms’ packaged foods.
However, industry watchers say that Kraft Heinz’s brands have struggled to compete with products offering more natural ingredients.
3G is also a large investor in Anheuser-Busch.