Heinz picks new leader for troubled division
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The H.J. Heinz Co. is looking for a new recipe for success on its home turf.
The Pittsburgh food company on Tuesday assigned a new leader to head up the struggling North American division of the global business founded in Sharpsburg.
Dave Woodward, a 47-year-old executive who won plaudits for turning around the company's United Kingdom and Ireland operations, already had been given a plum promotion this spring.
Mr. Woodward was named in May to lead the company's "rest of world" operations covering Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.
But the North American division has been putting up disappointing results and Heinz management opted to move Mr. Woodward there instead.
Scott O'Hara, in charge at Heinz North America since July 2009, is leaving the company to pursue other opportunities, Heinz announced Tuesday in an official statement.
Mr. O'Hara had been with the company six years, spending part of that tenure running Heinz Europe.
Although the change is effective immediately, Mr. O'Hara's employment with the company will continue until Aug. 1, according to a regulatory filing.
Heinz North America includes the North American consumer products division and the U.S. foodservice operation working with restaurants and hospitals. It accounted for $4.7 billion in total sales in the fiscal year that ended April 29, about flat with the previous year.
Overall, the company reported total sales of $11.6 billion for the year, with growth coming in emerging markets such as China and Brazil, as well as in global ketchup sales.
In a May presentation to analysts, Heinz officials noted the U.S. market has been dealing with low consumer confidence, an uncertain job scene and an intense customer focus on value.
Heinz has introduced smaller packaging options meant to appeal to customers living from paycheck to paycheck, as well as budget-friendly products such as new varieties of canned beans and vinegar formulated to work better for cleaning.
Moves to streamline the division included dropping from 24 factories to 19 and selling off non-core lines.
"Today's announcement should not come as a surprise and confirms how pressured the domestic operation is," according to a report to investors Tuesday written by Thilo Wrede and Scott A. Mushkin, analysts with New York-based Jefferies & Company Inc.
"We view the selection of Mr. Woodward as a positive step, since he was able to turn the U.K. business around during his six-year tenure there and make it one of Heinz's strongest developed country organizations."
Still, they said, a recovery could take time.
The company said it will name a new leader for the rest of world segment shortly.
Heinz shares closed Tuesday at $52.95, down .53%.
First Published June 27, 2012 12:00 am