Hershey's board of directors announced Dec. 21 that the company will appoint 11-year company veteran and current COO Michele Buck as its new president and CEO, effective March 1, 2017.
Buck will succeed John Bilbrey, who previously announced that he would retire as CEO and president. Bilbrey will remain as the non-executive chairman, the company said. Buck joined Hershey in 2005, and engineered the company's expansion into broader snacking categories. She also oversaw the acquisitions of Krave and barkThins brands, a company press release stated.
"Michele is a proven leader who, during 11 years at Hershey and more than 25 years as an executive in the consumer packaged goods industry," Bilbrey says. "She has a demonstrated track record of building brands consumers love, while bringing out the best in employees amid a rapidly changing business environment. She has consistently displayed a keen sense for how to grow our iconic brands. The unanimous vote by the board is a testament to the confidence we have in Michele as the next leader of this great company."
Buck has spearheaded the development and execution of many successful growth initiatives and strategic shifts at the company, most notably Hershey's substantial growth in its core confection portfolio as it moved from a supply- to demand-driven business model. Buck is a proven people leader and a champion of the Hershey culture through her ability to inspire, develop and connect with employees and customers, the Hershey, Pa., company stated. In its latest earnings report, Hershey reported both net sales and earnings growth and raised its earnings outlook for the year.
Buck may have to contend with the plans of the charitable trust that controls Hershey. The trust in July reached a major reform agreement with its overseer, the Pennsylvania attorney general's office.
Her appointment also means another exciting step forward for food and beverage: expanding the relatively low number of female CEOs in the industry, joining PepsiCo, Mondelez and Campbell in employing top female executives. This could encourage more leadership roles for women in the industry, particularly if Buck continues to successfully lead and expand the company's growth initiatives.