Kraft Foods Group Inc. on Thursday said Chief Executive Tony Vernon will retire by the end of the year, naming its board chairman and PepsiCo Inc. veteran John Cahill as his successor to the top executive spot.
Shares of Kraft Foods were trading at all-time highs Thursday morning, recently rising more than 4% to $62.06.
Mr. Vernon led the company through the separation from its snacks business, now known as Mondelez International Inc., in 2012. The split left Kraft with supermarket mainstay brands such as Oscar Mayer, Maxwell House, Velveeta and Kool-Aid, while Mondelez includes brands such as Oreo, Cadbury and Ritz.
Mr. Vernon plans to retire on Dec. 27, but he will stay on as a senior adviser through March.
Mr. Cahill, 57 years old, was previously chief executive of Pepsi Bottling Group Inc., a leading bottler in the PepsiCo network, after spending nine years at the beverage and food company. He joined Kraft in 2012 as an executive chairman-designate ahead of the spinoff.
The management change comes as Kraft struggles to combat changing consumer tastes and high commodity prices. Food companies also are grappling with tougher competition and pressure from investors to improve margins.
In October, Kraft reported that its earnings fell 11% and revenue was flat in the latest period, as high commodity prices led the company to raise prices. Mr. Vernon has called the strategy risky, because many consumers are still in bargain-hunting mode despite the overall economic improvement.
For the full year, analysts polled by Thomson Reuters are expecting Kraft’s revenue to be flat. Next year, analysts expect Kraft’s revenues will inch up 2%.
By Chelsey Dulaney