Kraft Heinz CEO Patricio to step down, hand baton to insider

By Deborah Mary Sophia

(Reuters) -Kraft Heinz’s CEO Miguel Patricio will step down from the role and be succeeded by Carlos Abrams-Rivera, the president of its North American business, starting next year, the packaged food maker said on Monday.

Patricio joined Kraft Heinz in July 2019 as the company bet on a marketing veteran to help reverse years of muted sales and market share losses to brand-name competitors and private-label players.

In February of that year, the company had recorded a $15.4 billion write-down related to its Kraft and Oscar Mayer brands.

Patricio, who had previously spent two decades at Budweiser owner Anheuser-Busch InBev, oversaw Kraft Heinz’s efforts to revitalize brands including Oscar Mayer by ramping up investments.

Kraft Heinz also divested its nuts business under Patricio to reduce exposure to private-label competition, while stepping up marketing spend and streamlining its supply chain.

Abrams-Rivera will take on the added responsibility as president of Kraft Heinz, effective immediately, while Patricio will remain non-executive chair of the board, the company said.

Abrams-Rivera joined Kraft Heinz in early 2020 and is credited with steering the company’s North American business through the pandemic, having previously held key roles at Campbell Soup and Mondelez International.

“The announcement was a bit sudden to us, given that Patricio’s only been here since 2019,” CFRA Research analyst Arun Sundaram said.

“But I also think this is a good time for a transition because there are new challenges that the company will be facing over the near- and medium-term.”

Abrams-Rivera takes the helm when demand is easing for Kraft Heinz’s packaged meals and condiments as higher prices force consumers to shun branded products and turn to cheaper alternatives, tasking the new CEO with boosting volumes and winning back market share.

Sundaram said he sees mergers and acquisitions as “an important driver” for Kraft Heinz. “I do think we’ll see some acquisitions in the near- to medium-term,” he added.

Kraft Heinz, also known for Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Jell-O, earlier this month left its annual forecasts unchanged after missing estimates for quarterly sales.

(Reporting by Deborah Sophia in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Varun H K and Sriraj Kalluvila)