US food company H J Heinz has announced that Kenneth C. Keller has been named chairman and chief executive officer of Heinz Italy and president of Heinz Southern Europe.

Keller will report to Joe Jimenez, president and CEO of Heinz Europe, as part of a revamped management team charged with driving sustained growth in Heinz’s Italian business, centred on its Plasmon infant feeding brand.

Keller has been Heinz’s chief growth officer since January 2003, with particular focus on growing the company’s 15 top brands around the world. Prior to that, he was managing director, US Ketchup, Condiments & Sauces (KC&S) and global category leader, Sauces & Condiments.

In a related announcement, Heinz said it has appointed Fernando Pocaterra to be chief operating officer for Heinz Italy, reporting to Keller, with responsibility for sales, marketing and operations functions. A 22-year Heinz veteran, Pocaterra has held the position of president of Heinz Venezuela for five years.

Succeeding Pocaterra as president of Heinz Venezuela is Eduardo Benatuil, a 20-year Heinz veteran who has been marketing and sales director at Heinz Venezuela since June 1999.

Both Keller and Pocaterra will assume their new roles immediately. They will also become members of Heinz’s European Management Committee and will relocate to Italy.