Unilever, Kraft, ConAgra, Sara Lee, others find new key executives

Maybe it was end-of-year house cleaning, but it seems late December and January brought an unusual level of executive appointments to food and beverage companies.

Across the pond, London-based Unilever Plc went outside the company for the first time for a chairman. The food and household products giant named Michael Treschow, currently the chairman of Swedish electronics giant Ericsson, to succeed Antony Burgmans. Also a non-executive director of ABB Group, Treschow will take over at Unilever's annual general meeting in May. Burgmans had announced his intention to retire at the next annual meeting.

A month earlier, John Rice, president of Unilever Americas, said he will retire in March. As his replacement, Unilever named Michael Polk, currently group vice president and president of Unilever U.S. Before joining Unilever in 2003, Polk was an executive at Kraft.

Speaking of Kraft, Sanjay Khosla from New Zealand-based Fonterra Co-operative Group was named a Kraft executive VP and president of Kraft International Commercial. He will oversee Kraft’s $11 billion of business outside of North America, is a member of the Kraft executive team and will report directly to CEO of seven months Irene Rosenfeld while being based at Kraft headquarters in Northfield, Ill.

Since 2004, Khosla was managing director of Fonterra Brands, the co-op’s consumer and foodservice business. Before that, he had a 27-year career with Unilever in India, London and Europe, culminating in his roles as senior vice president-global beverages and chairman of the Unilever beverages category board. At Kraft he succeeds Hugh Roberts, who, as previously announced, retired after a “distinguished” 31-year career with Kraft.

Sara Lee Corp., Downers Grove, Ill., went to consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton to find Tom Hansson for the position of senior vice president, strategy and corporate development. Hansson, 46, has more than 20 years of consulting experience.

Coca-Cola Co. is reorganizing its marketing department to report to new COO Muhtar Kent. Which means 23-year veteran Mary Minnick, an executive VP and president of marketing, strategy and innovation is leaving the Atlanta company at the end of this month “to pursue opportunities in the U.K.” She will not be replaced.

AdWeek speculated Minnick's departure is linked to Kent's elevation to COO by CEO Neville Isdell. Kent's promotion puts him in line for the CEO title, which many considered a possibility for Minnick.
Cincinnati-based grocer Kroger Co. named Linda Severin to the new position of VP-corporate brands. She had been VP of marketing at ConAgra Foods, Omaha, Neb. Prior to ConAgra, Severin held executive positions at Campbell Soup, Dean Foods and Sara Lee.

Andre Hawaux joined ConAgra as executive vice president and chief financial officer after working for PepsiCo and its bottlers for 25 years.

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