Blog: Dean BestAnother reshuffling of pack at Hain Celestial

Dean Best | 13 March 2017

Hain Celestial, under the scrutiny of the investment community in recent months and facing some challenges in its domestic market, has announced another shuffling of its management pack.

The Earth's Best and Terra Chips owner has a new executive leading its operations in North America.

Gary Tickle, the former Nestle executive only named the chief operating officer of Hain Celestial's business in the US in September, is now the CEO of the company's North American division.

Tickle succeeds John Carroll, the long-time Hain Celestial executive who was in the role since the autumn of 2015 after eight years leading its US arm.

Carroll is now Hain Celestial's executive vice president for global brands, categories and new business ventures, with responsibilities including M&A, disposals and the execution of Project Terra, the company's strategic review of cost savings.

"A year ago we embarked on Project Terra, a strategic review of our global business, to allow us to invest more behind our leading brands and partner with our customers to bring better-for-you food, beverages and personal care products to more consumers around the world, unleashing and maximizing the value of our assets. After working with John Carroll for over 13 years, I am pleased he will further this initiative and now will lead our strategy on global brands and new business development including acquisitions, as his leadership has been a driving force behind the success of our business in the United States," Hain Celestial founder, president and CEO Irwin Simon said.

"In a short period of time working with us, Gary Tickle has been instrumental within Hain Celestial United States in creating teams across the organisation to build our new platforms for growth and develop our go-to-market strategy. Gary is building a new, strong aligned business process with brands, customers and channels to win with the consumer, which we expect will provide us with opportunities for incremental growth and margin improvement."

The announcements, made last week, come three months after Hain Celestial outlined its last executive changes.

Tickle's new job has been welcomed by some Wall Street analysts covering Hain Celestial. Pablo Zuanic, an analyst at US investment and trading firm Susquehanna International Group, said Tickle's appointment to lead Hain Celestial's North American business "is another reason to assume Hain can narrow the sales growth gap with the broader natural/organic food and beverage industry", as well as the company's recent moves in areas such as innovation and rationalising its product range.

Zuanic was among a group of analysts who met Simon at the Natural Products Expo West trade show on Friday, where Hain Celestial gave a presentation on its strategy.

Hain Celestial, Zuanic said in a note today, said "little" about its recent audit into concessions it made to distributors in the US, a situation that has led to a delay in the company reporting its quarterly results. The last time Hain Celestial published financial numbers was in May last year for the period covering its third quarter and nine months to the end of March 2016, with some concern in the investment community to the extent the audit will mean the company will have to re-state data.

"Our read," Zuanic said today, "is that the company may be publishing numbers soon". He added: As per our analysis, we do not expect more than a 1-2% restatement (if at all) to trailing 12-months financials (through March 2016 results). At the end of the day, how much yogurt, soy drinks, and baby food can distributors stock up? We do not disagree that the company faces several micro/macro headwinds, but we still expect the stock to trade up once the audit is complete, financials are filed, and guidance is issued."

Zuanic suggests Hain Celestial faces challenges from a slight slowdown in the US natural/organic market, driven by a slower natural channel, which he says accounts for half of Hain's sales. He also argues Hain Celestial "may be playing catch-up" amid the "fast rise of e-commerce", while the company could also face pressure from the two, ongoing trends seen in mainstream retail - US food majors upping their presence in the natural and organic sectors and US grocers investing in own label.

"We realise Hain has a large, sprawling, and fragmented portfolio, but we see franchise strength in at least three-quarters of the portfolio," Zuanic wrote. "From our standpoint, we think the company should do its best to sell its personal care line as well as the bulk of the Cultivate Brands group."

Cultivate Brands was a division Hain Celestial set up last year to invest in "concepts, products and technology" that focus on health and wellness. The unit will also invest in the company's smaller brands in "high potential categories", such as SunSpire chocolates and DeBoles pasta.

There has been another piece of Hain Celestial-related news in the UK today.

The country's competition watchdog said it is looking into Hain Celestial's proposed acquisition of UK chilled soup business Yorkshire Provender.

Hain Celestial, which already owns the local chilled soup brand New Covent Garden, last month announced a deal to buy Yorkshire Provender.

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority said it was considering whether or not the planned transaction could affect competition in the sector.

Sectors: Natural & organic

Companies: Hain Celestial

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