Barry Callebaut announces change to executive board and CHF500m investment plan

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Shakeup at the top: Barry Callebaut Group CEO Peter Feld is streamlining its executive as part of a new strategic investment plan. Pic: Barry Callebaut
Shakeup at the top: Barry Callebaut Group CEO Peter Feld is streamlining its executive as part of a new strategic investment plan. Pic: Barry Callebaut

Related tags Barry callebaut Chocolate Cocoa Sustainability

In the first major announcement since Peter Feld took over the reins as chief executive officer from Peter Boone in April, the Group said it is to invest CHF 500 million ($563 million) over the next two years in core customer areas and in efficiency measures leading to CHF 250 million annual cost reductions supporting margins and cash flow.

Labelled ‘BC Next Level’, the operating model will move Barry Callebaut closer to its markets and customers while implementing globally standardised and digitised processes to increase growth, profitability, and efficiency further. The Group said it will increase its regional footprint from three to five regional divisions – Western Europe, Central & Eastern Europe, North America, Latin America, and Asia Pacific Middle East & Africa – each encompassing five to six country clusters.

As ConfectioneryNews reported​ in July this year, the Group reported lower nine-month sales volumes in its 9-Month Key Sales Figures for Fiscal Year 2022-23 after being hit by growing global inflationary pressures and the high price of cocoa on the commodity market that pushed up the price of chocolate, further dampening demand.

The investment programme will be funded from existing financial resources and will be aimed at areas most relevant to customers, such as innovation, service, sustainability, and quality powered by digital platforms that boost speed to market and facilitate deeper partnerships with customers, the Group said in a statement.

Also announced was a major shakeup of its executive committee, which will be reduced to six from the current nine members with new global responsibilities within the enabling functions of Finance, HR, and Technology to improve processes further and launch a Customer Supply & Development organisation with an experienced leadership team.

Feld said: “Our mission is to be the heart and the engine for the global cocoa and chocolate industry. We have delivered robust growth for nearly 25 years. Due to evolving customer demands for more sustainable and innovative products, now is the time to bring the Group to the next level by strategically investing in its future. We will move decision-making closer to our markets and customers while fostering simplicity and digitization to advance our well-recognized innovation and sustainability approach to deliver additional value for all our stakeholders​.”

The Weize fallout

"The time has come to take the group to a higher stage of its growth​," said Feld in a call to media and analysts to unveil the new strategy. However, as one analyst on the call pointed out, growth has faltered since an incident in 2022 at its Belgian factory in Wieze, where traces of salmonella had been detected.

The chocolate industry was rocked with the shock resignation of Boone in April 2023 and Feld, the former CEO of the investment company Jacobs Holding, one of the group's major shareholders, was appointed with immediate effect.

In the virtual presentation, Feld spelled out his priorities, starting with the problems at the Wieze facility, which he described as a perfect storm of issues that led to its temporary closure, causing supply constraints.

He said he will be “taking decisive action for across BC​” – looking at how the incident was allowed to happen and how the Group has addressed it, bringing in cross-functional accountability, supplier strategy & requirements, new factory firewalls and a more thorough testing process.

New leadership

Feld also told analysts and media he intends to simplify the corporate structure of the Group, bring decisions closer to customers and emphasise the digitalisation of processes within the company,

The current CFO, Ben De Schryver, will resume a commercial role, taking on the management of the North America zone after Steve Woolley, President & CEO Americas, Masha Vis-Mertens, CHRO, and Rogier van Sligter, President EMEA, decided to “pursue new endeavours outside of Barry Callebaut​”.

Jo Thys, currently Chief Operations Officer, will assume accountability as President Operations Strategy & Innovation, reporting to Clemens Woehrle. Vamsi Mohan Thati will become Regional President for the APAC, Middle East & Africa region. All regions will report directly to the CEO.

Other new members of the  Executive Committee are:

Peter Vanneste, joining on 1 November 2023, as Chief Financial Officer

Jutta Suchanek, joining on 1 October 2023, as Chief People & Diversity Officer

Dr Clemens Woehrle, joining on 1 October 2023, as Chief Customer Supply & Development Officer

Patrick De Maeseneire, Chairman of Barry Callebaut’s Board of Directors, said: “With BC Next Level, Barry Callebaut is set to become even more customer focused, agile, and efficient. The Board is convinced that these actions will secure the long-term success of the company and benefit all stakeholders. The management team can count on our full support for the implementation of the action plan presented today​.”

  • Barry Callebaut is to provide full strategic update, mid-term guidance and further details on BC Next Level in conjunction with Full-Year Results 2022/23 publication on 1 November, 2023.

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