Thomas Hernquist, global chief growth officer, resigned on Friday, effective Dec. 31. A news release sent out by Hershey said he would be working on ventures that "leverage strategic consumer insights." The company did not return a phoned inquiry.
Just two weeks ago, six Hershey directors were forced out of the company by the Hershey Trust. Two more resigned voluntarily. And last month, CEO Rick Lenny said he planned to step down, effective Nov. 30. He was replaced on Friday by COO David West.
Hernquist joined Hershey in 2003 as senior vice president/chief marketing officer. He was at the forefront of the company's growth in its core products as well as the North American portfolio. He joined Hershey from Fortune Brands, where he served as senior vice president/global marketing, with responsibility for the company's distilled spirits business.
Hernquist has served as senior vice president/marketing for Nabisco's Biscuit Division and vice president/general manager at Entenmann's. He began his marketing career at Frito-Lay. Hernquist is also on the executive committee of the American Marketing Association, and serves on the board of directors of Bon Ton.
Hershey is facing enormous pressure from the controlling trust to drive up sales while it faces strong competition from M&Ms maker Mars. Analysts blame underspending on key brands and no global growth for the poor performance.
Hershey shares are down 20% this year while rivals Cadbury Schweppes' shares are up 19%, and Nestle's are up by 37%.
"Hershey is a truly unique company with outstanding brands, deeply committed employees and a rich heritage of giving to the community," Hernquist said in a statement. "I'm grateful to have worked with such outstanding people and brands. I'm also proud of the many accomplishments that we have achieved, from driving strategic ventures into premium and dark chocolate, developing innovative platforms and creating the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition."