Kellogg CEO John Bryant Out as the Big Food Mass CEO Exodus Continues
Earlier this month Fortune reported that 17 CEOs of public Big Food manufacturers and retailer had left their perches—or announced their intention to—in the last year and a half.
Today that number ticks up to 18.
Kellogg (K) announced that John A. Bryant, who has been in the role since January 2011, will retire next week after 20 years at the company. He joins industry stalwarts like Mondelez’s (MDLZ) Irene Rosenfeld, Coca-Cola’s (KO) Muhtar Kent, and Ken Powell of General Mills (GIS), who have exited the top job, or soon will.
Bryant’s departure follows a pattern that we’ve now seen repeated in the industry: Longtime CEOs are stepping aside as they battle activist investors, the pressure to implement the 3G-backed Kraft Heinz model of cost cutting, consumers eschewing their processed products, and pressure to slash their prices from retailers fending off Amazon (AMZN).
To be sure, many of the transitions follow the natural course of succession as executives approach the age of 65. But many industry insiders have said this is the most disruptive and challenging period they’ve ever seen in the industry. And Kellogg is not immune: Last month the company reported a nearly 2% decline in revenue as consumers opted for fresher fare.
Kellogg spokesperson Kris Charles told Fortune that it was Bryant’s decision to retire. “No time is perfect, but he felt this was a good time to transition.” Bryant will stay on on as executive chairman until March 15.
Bryant’s replacement is Steven Cahillane, who is the CEO of vitamin and supplement company Nature’s Bounty. The pick is somewhat outside the box for the packaged food industry, which has tended to go with company lifers. But some companies have increasingly shown a willingness to bring in some fresh blood and thinking as their sector is rocked.
Now it will be Cahillane’s job to apply his health and wellness background to selling Cheez-Its, Pringles, and Fruit Loops.