Hormel Foods Corp., maker of Spam canned pork and Skippy peanut butter, named James Snee its next chief executive as Jeffrey Ettinger retires and retains his role as the company’s chairman.
Mr. Snee’s elevation, effective Oct. 31, has been widely expected since Hormel promoted him to president and chief operating officer a year ago. He is expected to continue pushing the Austin, Minn., company to diversify into more protein-focused grocery products.
Hormel and other major U.S. meat processors, such as Tyson Foods Inc. and Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., have recently developed deeper portfolios of branded food products—in the meat case and beyond—to secure higher and more stable profit margins than generated by fresh meats sold to restaurants or shrink-wrapped in supermarkets.
“We feel we can do more things based on the success we’ve had,” Mr. Snee said in a recent interview at Hormel’s headquarters.
Mr. Snee joined Hormel in 1989, the same year as Mr. Ettinger, and has helped lead businesses such as those that sell meat to restaurants and foodservice operations. He also has overseen purchasing and Hormel’s international division. The company is currently setting up a plant in China to produce Spam and other products. Since being named president and chief operating officer last October, Mr. Snee has led all of Hormel’s business segments and global operations.
Hormel’s share price has climbed by nearly five times during Mr. Ettinger’s tenure as chief executive since 2006, as the company picked up established grocery-store brands like Skippy and Wholly Guacamole. The 125-year-old company, which supplied Spam to U.S. troops during World War II, also has sought to woo new generations of consumers through deals for organic meat company Applegate Farms and specialty nut-butter maker Justin’s LLC.
Those deals were part of a string of purchases made by packaged-food giants contending with shifting consumer preferences. General Mills Inc. bought Annie’s Inc., while Campbell Soup Co. purchased Bolthouse Farms.
“Clearly, we need to go where the consumer is going,” Mr. Snee said. Hormel has been bringing its own business leaders together with those of Applegate, which operates independently, as Hormel further develops its animal welfare practices, he said.
In its core meat-processing operations, Hormel in recent years has grappled with a virus that killed millions of baby pigs and an avian influenza strain that hit many of the company’s turkey farms.
Hormel also aims to expand overseas, Mr. Snee said. The company has operated in Asia for years and is “comfortable” with the region, he said, and Hormel also has looked at Latin America. “If we are going to be a global company, we’ve got to get bigger,” he said.
In August, Hormel reported higher earnings and increased its full-year guidance as revenue rose 5.2% to $2.3 billion.
Shares of the company, which are up 14% in the past three months, were inactive in after-hours trading Tuesday.
By Jacob Bunge and Josh Beckerman
Source: Wall Street Journal
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