Blog: Dean BestFMCG veteran Kankiwala joins Hovis as chairman

Dean Best | 20 May 2014

UK bread manufacturer Hovis, embarking on life under the majority control of US private-equity firm Gores Group, has named former Unilever, PepsiCo and Burger King executive Nish Kankiwala its new chairman.

Hovis's former owner, UK food group Premier Foods plc, sold a 51% stake in the business to Gores earlier this year. Premier retained 49% of Hovis but hopes housing it in a stand-alone venture will revitalise the business in what remains a challenging UK market.

In an announcement today (20 May) Gores said Kankiwala "significant consumer brand experience and a proven ability to drive value and growth".

Since 2006, Kankiwala has been CEO of baby products supplier Maybron Group. Alongside that role, he was chairman of UK baby food firm Plum Baby from 2011 and 2013.

His career includes 15 years at Unilever between 1979 and 1994 and then a decade at PepsiCo. In 2004, Kankiwala joined Burger King Corp. as president, although he left the US fast food giant a year later.

"Nish is a great addition to the Hovis board. He has significant experience and an exceptional track record of reinvigorating organisations and reinventing brands," Gores MD Fernando Goni said.

Premier CEO Gavin Darby added: "He has excellent strategic, brand marketing and leadership experience that will be invaluable to the renaissance of the Hovis business."

That experience will have to be applied immediately. Hovis operates in a very challenging UK bread market against formidable competitors like Associated British Foods and Warburtons.

And ABF, through its Kingsmill brand, has shown it remains on the front foot, with two significant pieces of innovation this year - "thinner" bagels and what it has positioned as a healthier sliced loaf, Great White.

Kankiwala has a tough task on his hands.

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