Darigold, the US dairy major, has announced the departure of CEO Joe Coote.

He will be replaced on an interim basis by the company’s chairman Allan Huttema, effective immediately.

Seattle-based Darigold, the marketing and processing arm of the farmer-owned Northwest Dairy Association and one of the country’s largest dairy processors, said Coote plans to return to his native Australia.

Coote joined Darigold three years ago as president of its international ingredients division before being promoted to the top job in January 2022.

On Coote’s period in charge, Huttema said: “Joe took over as CEO at a time when we were early into a transformation to grow and modernise our business. Under his leadership, we took significant steps forward on that effort, beginning construction of our new facility in Pasco, launching a migration of our business management systems and beginning to develop a culture rooted in excellence in operations. We are grateful for Joe’s time with Darigold and appreciate all of his contributions.”

Huttema is one of Darigold’s 300 farmer-owners and has served on its board of directors for nine years. He has held the role of chairman of the board for the last three years.

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On his own move to become interim CEO, he said: “I take over as interim CEO with the benefit of having an extremely capable leadership team in place, including a number of Darigold veterans and newer leaders with proven track records across the dairy and consumer packaged goods sectors.

“Our business is structured to run around two divisions – business-to-business and business-to-consumer – each with experienced, proven leaders running them. I have full confidence that the team and the structure we have in place will help ensure that we continue serving our customers in the way they have come to expect from us.”

Darigold is in a multi-year “transformational journey” that involves the company modernising its business and making it more international.

The company is expanding production capacity, with the new facility currently under construction in Pasco in Washington state, updating its systems, reinvesting in its brand and “refocusing its culture on excellence in execution”.

Coote said: “I have enormous respect and admiration for our farmer-owners and the teams across our business that work so hard to keep our customers stocked with great, high-quality dairy products. Having been away from my home country for many years now, my family and I are ready to return to Australia to begin new adventures back home.”

In other recent executive changes, Darigold hired experienced CPG industry executive Dan Hofmeister as president of its business-to-consumer operation and dairy sector veteran Chris Rowe to fill the same role in its business-to-business arm.

The company also named a new senior vice president of sales, Dan Bukowski, to support its growth efforts.

Darigold handles approximately ten billion pounds of milk annually and produces a range of dairy products for retail, foodservice, commodity, and specialty markets

It operates 11 plants throughout the US north-west and has satellite offices in Mexico and China. The plant in Pasco is slated to open next year.