US-based food manufacturer Hain Celestial has named a former Pinnacle Foods executive as its new CEO, succeeding founder Irwin Simon in the role.

Mark Schiller’s appointment to Hain Celestial will become effective from 5 November. He will be nominated to the company’s board at its annual shareholder meeting slated for 5 December, according to a statement today (29 October).

Schiller has previously served at US heavyweights Pinnacle Foods and PepsiCo. He was most recently Pinnacle’s chief commercial officer.

Simon announced his intention to step down as CEO of Hain Celestial, the owner of US brands such as Earth’s Best baby food and Terra snacks, in June having founded the company 25 years ago. 

Simon said today: “Mark is an incredibly talented executive and I am confident he can lead Hain Celestial in its next phase of growth to generate value for all of our stakeholders. His disciplined management style, entrepreneurial spirit and relentless passion for profitable growth will serve Hain Celestial well as our team works to further advance our strategic objectives.” 

Schiller will inherit the Project Terra 2020 strategic review set in motion by Simon with the goal of cutting costs and reducing a bloated SKU count. The Nasdaq-listed company’s products in Europe include Tilda rice and Linda McCartney vegetarian foods. 

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He will also have to front investor Engaged Capital, which has been putting pressure on Simon to sell the business. California-based Engaged Capital snapped up a 10% share in Hain last summer and then tightened its grip through a “mutual cooperation” agreement in September, which saw the appointment of six new directors including Glenn Welling, the hedge fund’s founder and CEO. 

Andrew Heyer, Hain’s lead director, said in today’s statement announcing Schiller’s appointment: “Under Mark’s leadership, Hain Celestial will accelerate its business transformation through the execution of our four-point strategic plan investing in top brands and capabilities to grow globally, delivering on Project Terra cost savings, continually enhancing leadership across the organisation, and building upon our enviable position as a leader in organic, natural and better-for-you products, to create sustainable, long-term value for our stockholders.” 

just-food analysis in July after Simon’s announcement he was stepping down as CEO: Will incoming Hain Celestial chief usher in new era?