US plant-based food and drink producer SunOpta has picked a new CEO to replace Joe Ennen, who will be retiring from the company.

Ennen had worked as the group’s CEO since 2019.

SunOpta’s board of directors appointed Brian Kocher to take on the position from 2 January.

Ennen is expected to remain on the board until 1 April next year, acting as “an advisor to the board and Mr. Kocher”.

Kocher comes to the job with experience in building “intensive businesses in complex, multi-national organisations”.

He previously worked as president and CEO at the global avocado distributor Calavo Growers, and fresh produce specialists Castellini.

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By GlobalData

Prior to these positions, Kocher spent a decade at fruit giant Chiquita Brands, where he held positions including CFO and COO. He is presently chairman at agtech solutions group AgroFresh.

Dean Hollis, chair of SunOpta’s board of directors, said Ennen had been key to “the success of the company” and enabled “a complete portfolio transformation and solidified our balance sheet”.

He added: “With Joe’s support, we were thrilled to find Brian and are confident he is the right leader to continue the company’s strategy to deliver significant long-term sustainable growth and value for shareholders.”

Ennen added: “Brian’s deep food industry expertise, coupled with his shared values and commitment to furthering our purpose, make him the right leader to continue to drive growth and optimise our network.

Kocher said: “Joe has set a strong foundation for SunOpta’s growth and success, and I’m excited to continue this momentum by working toward our collective mission of fuelling the future of food.”

In April, the group laid out a long-term goal to double its revenue, from the $935m recorded in SunOpta’s 2022 financial year to $2bn in the next five to seven years.

To achieve these goals, it said it planned to focus its M&A in three core areas: plant-based drinks, better-for-you snacks and nutrition beverages.

In August, the group announced a cut to its 2023 sales outlook after disappointing second-quarter results. SunOpta brought down its full-year forecast to $800m-$900m in revenue, and expected sales would be down by around 4% to 6% for the annual period.

In October, SunOpta sold “certain assets” of its frozen fruit Sunrise Growers brand to Canada’s Nature’s Touch for a sum of $141m.

Ennen said today SunOpta was “well positioned for its next phase of growth”.

He added: “We are reaffirming our Q4 outlook and 2024 forecast to further reflect our confidence in the future.”

In its 2024 fiscal year, SunOpta is forecasting an 8-13% rise in revenue to $670-700m and a 14-21% jump in adjusted EBITDA to $87-92m.