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August 30, 2019

Premier Foods finally gets new CEO in form of Alex Whitehouse, but CFO Alastair Murray to depart

After more than six months without a permanent chief executive, UK-based Premier Foods has finally made an appointment, although the CFO is set to leave.

By Dean Best

After more than six months without a permanent chief executive, UK-based Premier Foods has appointed Alex Whitehouse as CEO – but has announced Alastair Murray, the finance chief who has has been filling the role on an interim basis, is leaving the Mr. Kipling cakes maker.

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The food and grocery sector thrived during the pandemic, largely due to the shutdown of the food service industry and the sector’s subsequent necessity, panic-induced bulk purchasing, and spending more time at home. The market has grown as a result of inflation. Consumer unwillingness to go out and socialize, and the reopening of several hospitality facilities, helped maintain the demand for groceries, particularly online, in 2021. As consumer behavior changes, we consume more food and drink at home, and inflation increases basket sizes. GlobalData predicts that the sector will continue to hold a higher share than had been predicted prior to the pandemic. This is true despite the fact that the food and grocery sector's share of overall retail will decline from its peak in 2020. This report will discuss market forecasts and key themes in the global food & grocery industry in 2022 and beyond. It covers:
  • Market drivers and inhibitors
  • Five-year forecasts and the impact of COVID-19
  • The performance of the online channel versus offline
  • Major trends in the market including rapid delivery, ambient retailing, supply chain disruption, and inflation
Assess developments within this sector to help your business thrive in 2022 and beyond.
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The London-listed business said today (30 August) Whitehouse, who was the company’s UK managing director, will assume the position straight away and will also sit on the board of directors. In another appointment, Colin Day will become non-executive chairman with immediate effect.

Former chairman Keith Hamill stepped down in July, following in the footsteps of ex-CEO Gavin Darby, who left the Batchelors soups and Bisto gravy maker in January after six years in the hot seat. He had been criticised by some of Premier Foods’ shareholders amid a rocky financial performance, although he had made strides in cutting the company’s debt and reinvigorating some of its legacy brands.

However, it is now unclear what direction a business review launched under Darby’s watch, and continued under acting CEO and CFO Murray, will take. Darby had put the Ambrosia brand up for sale last November, but then called it off earlier this year on speculation it could not get the right price, noting at the time that such a deal would “not result in a satisfactory financial outcome”.

Mr. Kipling has also since been touted as a potential sale target. And in April, it was reported Premier Foods had hired advisory firm d’Angelin & Co. to explore a break-up of the business including asset disposals, a process believed to be instigated by Paulson & Co., the food giant’s third-largest shareholder after Japan’s Nissin Foods Holdings and Oasis Asset Management. 

Some of those activist investors now have representatives on the board following heated debates over the company’s leadership and strategy. 

A statement from Premier Foods announcing the senior management changes said Murray “has agreed with the board to leave the business and step down from the board, also with effect from today”, it read. 

Duncan Leggett, the company’s group director of financial control and corporate development, will now fill the CFO role on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is found.    Richard Hodgson, a senior independent director, said: “On behalf of the board I would like to thank Alastair Murray for his outstanding contribution to the business, both as CFO and more latterly as acting CEO, and wish him all the best for the future.

“I am delighted that Colin Day is joining the company as chairman, a role to which he will bring extensive experience at a pivotal time in the company’s history. We are also very pleased that Alex Whitehouse, who has led the successful turnaround of our UK business, has accepted the role of group CEO.”

Incoming CEO Whitehouse added: “I’m delighted to become Premier Foods’ CEO and look forward to working with Colin and the board to drive further value from our great portfolio of brands. I’m very encouraged by the improved performance of the business over the last couple of years and see this as something we can build on further.”

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Free Report
img

What’s the forecast for the food and grocery industry?

The food and grocery sector thrived during the pandemic, largely due to the shutdown of the food service industry and the sector’s subsequent necessity, panic-induced bulk purchasing, and spending more time at home. The market has grown as a result of inflation. Consumer unwillingness to go out and socialize, and the reopening of several hospitality facilities, helped maintain the demand for groceries, particularly online, in 2021. As consumer behavior changes, we consume more food and drink at home, and inflation increases basket sizes. GlobalData predicts that the sector will continue to hold a higher share than had been predicted prior to the pandemic. This is true despite the fact that the food and grocery sector's share of overall retail will decline from its peak in 2020. This report will discuss market forecasts and key themes in the global food & grocery industry in 2022 and beyond. It covers:
  • Market drivers and inhibitors
  • Five-year forecasts and the impact of COVID-19
  • The performance of the online channel versus offline
  • Major trends in the market including rapid delivery, ambient retailing, supply chain disruption, and inflation
Assess developments within this sector to help your business thrive in 2022 and beyond.
by GlobalData
Enter your details here to receive your free Report.

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