Australian confectioner Yowie Group has announced the departure of chief executive Bert Alfonso as the company slashed its full-year sales forecast.

Chief operating officer Mark Schuessler will step into the CEO role with immediate effect.

Schuessler had held the position of global COO since June 2016 and was also head of Yowie’s North American division from August 2017. Alfonso will step down as CEO and will also resign as a director of the firm, according to a statement sent to the Australian Securities Exchange today (3 January).

The company cut its sales growth outlook for the fiscal year ending in June 2018 from 55% to 17%, which it said was partly due to a lower-than-expected contribution from its business in Canada

Yowie said today its global sales increased 23% in the second quarter ended in December but it noted a flat performance in both the US and Canada. Group sales came in at US$5.4m to give a first-half result of $10m, which was up 7.5% from a year earlier.

“Notwithstanding the disappointing revenue performance for the half and the reduced full-year sales guidance, the board would like to thank Bert for his efforts,” the statement noted. “Much was achieved on Bert’s watch and he has laid the foundations for the continued growth and path to profitability for the Yowie business.”

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By GlobalData

Yowie’s Discovery World product in the US, a novelty chocolate launched in April 2017, was also cited as a factor in the sales downgrade. The company said the sector was expected to add $3m to the full-year budget “but is now expected to fall short of this as retailers are hesitant to bring on more, lower priced offerings to the crowded set”.

Canada’s contribution to Yowie’s group revenues is also predicted to be lower after the firm’s products only debuted on the shelves in that country in October, later than planned. A similar delay had also forced the company to cut it sales forecast for the previous fiscal year in June.

In terms of regional performance, Yowie’s North American division booked second-quarter sales of $4.4m, flat from a year earlier and below plan. For the half, they were down 11.7% at $8.2m.

The company booked on-target Australian sales of $1m in the quarter and $1.8m for the half, which was 15% above target.

Yowie was a brand developed by two Australian authors under the company name Kidcorp in the 1990s. In 1993, Cadbury struck a deal with Kidcorp that saw the confectionery giant commercialise the brand internationally and own it in some Asia Pacific territories.

In 2004, Cadbury decided to focus on its global brands. In 2012, Yowie Group secured the Cadbury-owned rights to the brand after the Dairy Milk maker was sold to Kraft Foods Inc.

Yowie Group listed on the Australian stock market in December 2012 as a global brand licencing company. It now owns all the rights to the Yowie brand worldwide.