Blog: Katy AskewHershey considering Stitzer for top job?

Katy Askew | 9 June 2011

A number of reports this week have suggested that US chocolate maker Hershey is considering former Cadbury CEO Todd Stitzer as a candidate to fill the post of chief executive.

In a surprise announcement last month, Hershey boss Dave West revealed that he was defecting to Del Monte Foods, leaving the top job at the US chocolate maker vacant.

While acting CEO and COO John Bilbrey is for the most part viewed as the front runner, it appears that Stitzer could also be in the frame.

Indeed, in some ways Stitzer's appointment makes a lot of sense and - were it to go ahead - it could prove a pivotal moment for the Hershey Kisses and Reece's Pieces marker.

Having spent 27 years at Cadbury, Stitzer knows the chocolate game in-and-out and certainly the management of some of Cadbury's iconic brands could be compared to their Hershey counterparts.

Additionally, it would seem that Stitzer has a decent relationship with Hershey as the two sides talked about a "white knight" bid for Cadbury as an alternative to the Kraft Foods takeover. Hershey also distributed Creme Eggs and Cadbury chocolate bars in the US, prior to the group's takeover by Hershey's American rival.

However, what could prove really significant is Stitzer's international experience. Cadbury was a truly international chocolate player, with a large proportion of its sales being generated in emerging markets. In sharp contrast, while Hershey has an exceptionally strong US presence, its operations are decidedly focused on its domestic market.

For some time, question marks have hung over whether Hershey will look to drive growth overseas. And, while the company has in recent years improved its performance with better US sales and margins, it has failed to give any clear indication of whether it has any long-term ambitions to grow internationally.

Perhaps, then, if Hershey were to appoint Stitzer this could be seen as the clearest sign yet that the US chocolate icon is gearing up to enter the international fray and attempt to expand overseas.



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