Kraft's CMO Among Execs Leaving As New CEO Changes Management Team

Two months after becoming Kraft Foods Group's CEO, John Cahill is installing a new management team. 

Deanie Elsner, a 20-year Kraft veteran who became its first CMO in February 2013, will leave the company at the end of the month, as will Teri List-Stoll, CFO since September 2013. 

In addition, Chuck Davis -- a 30-year Kraft veteran who was named EVP of R&D, quality and innovation in 2007 -- will depart after a successor has been named.

George Zoghbi -- currently vice chairman, operations, R&D, sales and strategy -- has been named COO; and Chris Kempczinski, who currently leads Kraft's Canada business unit, has been named EVP of growth initiatives and president of international. Both are new positions for the company. They report to Cahill.



Jane Hilk, EVP and president for enhancers and snack nuts, will serve as interim CMO. Hilk has served in marketing positions across most of the company's product categories and has launched "ground-breaking" advertising campaigns for brands including Oscar Mayer, Planters and Kraft Singles, Kraft said in its announcement. A permanent CMO will be named later.

The company stressed that marketing remains "critically important" and will be moved "closer to the business operations, in order to sharpen focus and more effectively ignite brand rejuvenation."

The chief marketer will report to Zoghbi, who will oversee all U.S. business units, including sales and marketing services, and continue to oversee Kraft's supply chain. 

Kempczinski will work with Zoghbi on strategy, including M&As, and innovation platforms, as well as overseeing Kraft's international markets and continuing to lead Kraft Canada.

List-Stoll will act as an advisor until a new CFO is named. In the meantime, the finance function will report directly to Cahill. Legal and human resources will continue to report to Cahill.

Kraft to 'Accelerate Pace of Change'

In the management team announcement and his first earnings call yesterday, Cahill stressed that Kraft is focused on accelerating development of a business strategy to accelerate sustainable, profitable growth.

He said that he will take a few months to work with the management team and immerse himself in the business before presenting specifics.

"I am excited to work with the management team as we continue to build a stronger Kraft and fulfill our potential as the industry leader," Cahill said in a statement. "Together, we will chart a course of innovation and brand rejuvenation that is built on clear strategy and efficient operations." 

For its fourth quarter ended December 27, Kraft reported a net loss of $398 million, or 68 cents per share, on a $1.36 billion charge related to post-employment benefit plans. 

But its revenue rose 2.2%, to $4.69 billion, exceeding Thomson Reuters-polled analysts' expectations of $4.625 billion, and its organic revenue rose 3.4%. 

Higher commodities costs have forced Kraft to raise prices on some products -- including ground coffee and cheese -- and higher pricing contributed to large operating income improvements in the cheese and refrigerated meals segments, noted The Wall Street Journal. On the other hand, the beverage unit's operating income was hurt by increased promotional pricing.

Like other large CPG food makers, Kraft has been struggling to respond to consumers' increasing preference for simpler, less processed foods.

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