Who is Dirk Van de Put, the new CEO of Mondelez? – Consumer News

on Aug4

2 August 2017 | 6:00 pm

For months, speculation has abounded that Irene Rosenfeld, who has run Mondelez International since its 2012 launch and was CEO of predecessor Kraft Foods, wouldn’t be on the job much longer. Now that the Deerfield-based snack food company has officially announced her retirement, the task of reinvigorating the company falls to a 57-year-old Belgian with a veterinary degree.

Dirk Van de Put, who will succeed Rosenfeld as CEO by November and as chairman in April, has spent the past six years as CEO of McCain Foods. A privately held maker of frozen french fries with $7.3 billion in annual sales—it is McDonald’s biggest supplier outside the U.S.—McCain runs its U.S. operations from suburban Lisle.

Before joining the Canadian company as COO in 2010, Van de Put was president of global over-the-counter division of Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis. Before that, he spent more than a decade with France’s Groupe Danone, known for yogurt, bottled water and baby food. Van de Put oversaw its business in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and other Latin American countries. While in charge, he guided Danone’s North American business to average annual growth of more than 20 percent, according to published biographies.

Van de Put rose through the ranks in European and Latin American sales and marketing roles for Mars, the privately held candy company that purchased Chicago’s Wrigley gum business in 2008. (Last year, Mars, which is based in suburban Washington, D.C., announced it would merge its chocolate and gum units into a single confectionery unit based in Chicago, on Goose Island.) He was also president of Coca-Cola’s Caribbean operations.

A native of Mechelen, Belgium, Van de Put graduated with a veterinary medicine degree from the University of Ghent and earned a graduate business degree from the University of Antwerp. He speaks six languages, holds Belgian-U.S. citizenship and splits his time between Toronto, where McCain maintains its corporate head office, and Coral Gables, Fla. Van de Put also sits on toymaker Mattel’s board of directors.

He will be paid a base salary of $1.45 million, plus incentives and a $38 million “make whole award” to compensate him for income he would have received at McCain.

As it was announcing Van de Put’s arrival today, Mondelez reported that second-quarter revenue fell 5 percent to $5.99 billion, hurt by, among other things, a malware attack that affected worldwide operations. Net income, however, rose 6 percent to $500 million as the company cut costs under a multiyear restructuring.

Speaking on today’s earnings call, Rosenfeld said that Van de Put got the job due to “a very proven track record of being ambidextrous…walking and chewing gum,” referring to his ability to deliver both top- and bottom-line growth.

Responding to an analyst’s question about her regrets, Rosenfeld continued: “In hindsight, I think perhaps we could have gone after costs a little faster…My regret is that we haven’t fully realized the potential on the top-line, and I have every confidence as I hand the reins over to Dirk…that this is the last piece of the puzzle here.”

At McCain, Van de Put grew net sales by more than 50 percent since 2011, according to Rosenfeld, and increased EBITDA by a double-digit percent each of the past six years. The privately held company does not release financial details.

Van de Put should be familiar with the existential problems facing Mondelez, which is battling both activist investors and consumers’ desire for less-processed snacks. Like Mondelez, McCain is an aging packaged-foods company, though it primarily sells to restaurants rather than directly to consumers. Under Van de Put’s leadership, it expanded through acquisition, snapping up a variety of businesses including Dutch snack company Van Geloven, a Netherlands potato product manufacturer, a Belgian maker of gluten-free products, and Infinity Foods, a maker of frozen cheese sticks and potato skins based in Plover, Wis.

Rosenfeld, too, turned to acquisitions to produce growth as sales of Kraft and Mondelez products—they include Oreos, Cadbury chocolates, Trident chewing gum and Nabisco crackers—have slowed around the world. In 2010, she architected Kraft’s $19 billion takeover of Cadbury, British chocolate label. But the biggest deal she chased did not end well: Last year, Rosenfeld offered $23 billion for Hershey but dropped the bid after she was rebuffed. The public failure raised questions about Mondelez’s ability to grow via dealmaking and turned it into a takeover target itself.

McCain was established in 1957 by four brothers in New Brunswick, Canada. The sons of a potato farmer, the McCains decided to try their luck in the then-fledgling world of frozen french fries. (One of their dad’s main export clients was Birds Eye, the American food company that first sold frozen fries in the 1940s.)

According to McCain’s website, the company today employs more than 20,000 people, processes more than 6.5 tons of potatoes annually and supplies thousands of restaurants and grocery stores in more than 160 countries.



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