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Can Heinz catch up after a rough 2013?

By Jenni Spinner+

14-Jan-2014
Last updated on 14-Jan-2014 at 19:27 GMT

Recently appointed leaders at HJ Heinz have more than a few challenges ahead.
Recently appointed leaders at HJ Heinz have more than a few challenges ahead.

After multiple shifts in management, HJ Heinz hopes its leadership team can help the company recoup, and prevent rival condiment purveyors from gaining ground.

Heinz North America tapped Eduardo Luz, previously managing director of consumer products business, to serve as president for the region. With his promotion, Luz becomes the third executive to lead the division in just seven months.

Changes for the better

Spokesperson Michael Mullen told FoodProductionDaily that the appointments of Luz as North American president and Melissa Werneck as senior vice president of global human resources point toward smoother sailing ahead for the firm.

These changes were made to better position the company for success in 2014 and beyond,” he said.

The company was snapped up for $29bn by Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company owned by billionaire Warren Buffett, in June. Since then, CEO Bernardo Hees has been busy with belt tightening—closing facilities, paring down its workforce and changing the guard.

Challenges ahead

Whoever’s at the helm of Heinz will have his or her work cut out. In addition to the job and cost cuts, the 145-year-old company has seen its share of challenges, big and small, that it must move past in order to bounce back.

In October, Heinz said goodbye to fast-food giant McDonald’s after plying the chain with ketchup for 40 years. The abrupt end to the four-decade partnership has been associated with the appointment of Hees, who formerly served as CEO for McDonald’s rival Burger King.

Then, Heinz production chain hit a formidable snag when its Ontario production facility was hit by a blaze in late December. While the facility was shuttered for the facility and no one was injured, the company’s supply chain took a hit; damages estimated at $20m crippled one line, which is expected to be idle at least until mid-February.

Hopefully, for the sake of the company and investors, Heinz North America is done playing musical chairs. Weathering its challenges in coming months, Heinz could serve as a significant example (for better or for worse) on how food firms can best tackle such adversity and come out on top.

Otherwise, competitors such as Del Monte and ConAgra Foods (owner of Hunt’s) could take advantage of Heinz’s situation to better position their own products in the global market.

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