New Zealand seafood company Sanford has announced its chief executive Volker Kuntzsch has resigned.

Touching on the reason for his departure, the company’s chairman Sir Rob McLeod said: “As we now move towards a greater focus on consumer-driven innovation and marketing, Volker and the Sanford board have agreed that now would be a sensible time for a new leader to drive the next phase of the strategy.”

Kuntzsch has led the company for seven years. His last day will be next Friday (18 September).

Sanford said it is starting an international search for a replacement chief executive. Until a replacement is found, chief commercial officer Andre Gargiulo will act as interim CEO.

Speaking about Kuntzsch’s departure, McLeod said: “Volker has helped transform Sanford into a progressive, values-based company with an outstanding commitment to environmental sustainability and to Sanford’s people. 

“On behalf of the Sanford team, we are grateful to Volker for his leadership and thank him for a seven year contribution as our chief executive.

“Over those last seven years we have made good progress on maximising the value of our fish products and diversifying our business, as well as turning our aquaculture business into a profitable and innovative unit.”

Last month, Sanford confirmed it is to close its fish processing facility in the coastal city of Tauranga with the majority of the 77 employees there set to lose their jobs.

It said the decision was due to decreased processing as a result of Covid-19 but also because the facility does not “meet new seismic strength requirements” introduced following the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes.

In May, Sanford reported a first-half net profit of NZD19m (US$12.7m), down 17% on a year earlier. Revenue fell 7% to NZD245.5m. Sanford pointed to a “shortfall” in catch volumes for toothfish and the impact of the sale of its Tauranga-based pelagics business in March 2019.