Hain Celestial names seasoned CPG exec as new CEO

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Dive Brief:

  • Hain Celestial named Wendy Davidson as its president and CEO starting Jan. 1, the company said in a press release. 
  • Davidson, an executive at Glanbia Performance Nutrition with leadership experience at Kellogg, McCormick & Co. and Tyson Foods, will replace Mark Schiller. He will become a non-executive director on the company’s board and will serve as an “ongoing resource” to Davidson. The CEO transition sent Hain’s stock plunging in midday trading, with its share down nearly 10%.
  • Davidson’s selection to the top post at the organic and natural food maker comes as the firm deals with outside challenges, including inflation, and internal questions over what to do with its non-core personal care products business.

Dive Insight:

After years of changes put in place to stabilize Hain, the food and beverage maker is welcoming in a new CEO who will have her own set of challenges to face. 

Schiller took the helm in November 2018, as the manufacturer of Celestial Seasonings teas and Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Straws was in turmoil.

After more than a half-decade in which revenue grew more than 20% annually, Hain was suddenly facing a slowdown in sales and shrinking margins as recently as four years ago. To offset slowing sales elsewhere in their businesses, large CPG manufacturers including General Mills and Nestlé, had jumped into the health and wellness channel for which Hain was known.Hain also faced pressure from an activist investor pushing for change.

Schiller refocused the sprawling food and personal care giant, which at one point was “hemorrhaging cash,” he said. The former PepsiCo executive consolidated Hain’s sales force and reduced the number of distribution centers it operated. He also unloaded several businesses — including ones slaughtering turkeys and selling fresh fruit — that didn’t fit in its portfolio. 

While the company’s business is now on firmer ground, Davidson will inherit many of the same problems other larger food and beverage giants are facing: rising inflation, price increases, global turmoil, supply chain disruptions and evolving consumer eating habits.

Hain described Davidson as “a seasoned consumer packaged goods executive with deep expertise in sales and marketing.” Davidson is no stranger to the CPG category, with executive experience at Kellogg, McCormick and Tyson that will allow her to get up to speed quickly at Hain.

She also has deep insight into healthier offerings after most recently serving as president of the Americas for Glanbia, a maker of healthy food, drinks and other products including SlimFast. At Glanbia, according to Hain’s release, Davidson “delivered strong results in a post-pandemic recovery” and played a role in integrating acquired brands into a single operating model.

In addition to addressing issues outside the company, she’ll also face internal decisions. Hain, which is best known for its chips, tea and yogurt, has long faced questions as to whether it should sell its personal care portfolio of cleansers, shampoos, sunscreens, lotions and baby care products. Personal care makes up less than 10% of its sales.

Davidson also could look at selling the entire company. Its prominent position in organic and natural foods is likely to attract the interest of a big CPG looking to broaden its presence there. But any deal is likely dependent on Hain selling its personal care segment; few companies have a presence in both food and products including shampoo and sunscreen.

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About the Author

Jervie David Montejar
A food lover who wants to try every delicious dishes around him and spread the news to everyone to try it as well. Finding the latest trends about food and restaurants around Cebu and the rest of the world :) "Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first." -Ernestine Ulmer
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