New Nestle CEO to lead health pivot

Agence France-Presse
New Nestle CEO to lead health pivot

EPA

Ulf Mark Schneider, who thrived as the head of a healthcare company, is seen to 'trigger a new era' at Nestle

ZURICH, Switzerland – Analysts on Tuesday, June 28, praised Nestle’s choice for its new chief executive, healthcare executive Ulf Mark Schneider, as the food giant took a further step in its bid to become a leader in nutrition.

Schneider, 50, will take over on January 1, replacing outgoing chief Paul Bulcke who has been nominated to become the company’s chairman.

In tapping Schneider for the post, Nestle bucked its near century-long track-record of picking in-house candidates as chief executives.

The last time the company selected an outsider as chief executive was in 1922, when banker Louis Dappels was brought in to reverse financial losses.

Nestle said Schneider’s selection points towards a shift in the company’s strategy.

With concerns about rising obesity on all continents, the company that has long been associated with fattening packaged foods wants to get in front of a global pivot towards nutrition and health.

In announcing Schneider’s hiring, the company’s board “reconfirmed the long-term orientation for Nestle as a Nutrition, Health and Wellness company,” a statement said.

Markets welcomed the move, as Nestle’s stock closed Tuesday up 3.31% at 73.45 Swiss francs ($74.80, 67.74 euros) on the Swiss exchange.

‘New era’

Choosing Schneider, a German-US national who thrived as the head of the healthcare company Fresenius, was consistent with that strategy, the board said.

“Schneider will trigger a new era at Nestle,” Bank Vontobel analyst Jean-Philippe Bertschy wrote.

The new chief’s plans may include a “radical” streamlining of the company’s product portfolio, especially in traditional areas like chocolate, while pursuing new opportunities in the health sector, according to Bertschy.

“Nestle is in need of fresh legs,” Jefferies analyst Martin Deboo said, according to the Bloomberg news agency. “Schneider’s track record is exceptional.”

Schneider, who will begin at Nestle for a transition period in September, said he was honored to join “an iconic global company.”

“With consumers around the world taking a deeper interest in their personal health and well-being, Nestle’s industry-leading global food and beverage business positions it well for advancing the vision of Nutrition, Health and Wellness,” he said in a statement.

In a study released this month, the UN-linked Global Nutrition Report said nearly two billion of the world’s estimated 7 billion people are either obese or overweight.

The World Health Organization has said that affordable, healthy snack options generated by private sector companies are crucial to long-term health on the planet.

Jon Cox, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux, said the hiring was a “positive and a clear signal” that Nestle will “leverage nutrition and health into its food portfolio to drive growth.”

The later years of Bulcke’s tenure saw turmoil, especially a damaging recall in India of Nestle’s massively popular Maggi noodles, which the government banned over lead levels.

An Indian court called that decision arbitrary and the noodles are back on the shelves, but the crisis has hurt Nestle’s position in a key Asian market. – Rappler.com

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