- B&G Foods said Robert Cantwell, the company's CEO, plans to retire on April 5, the company said in a statement. He has worked for B&G for 35 years in various roles, including the last four as president and CEO.
- Following his retirement, Cantwell will continue to advise the company on M&A and capital markets transactions. During his time as CEO, he completed six acquisitions, including the two largest in the company's history — Green Giant and the spices and seasonings business of ACH Food.
- B&G said Kenneth Romanzi will become its next president and CEO. He currently serves as executive vice president and COO.
Cantwell's retirement from B&G comes as somewhat of a surprise as he's only turning 62 this week. But the 35-year company veteran has left his mark at the manufacturer of brands like Ortega, Cream of Wheat and Snackwells where he has transformed the company's product base through a series of transformative deals, most notably the 2015 purchase of Green Giant for $765 million from General Mills.
Despite his announcement to retire, Cantwell will work for the company as an M&A advisor, an important move for a company where acquisitions have been, and are expected to remain, a vital part of its business strategy. B&G owns about 50 brands, the majority of them added to the fold through M&A.
B&G is reportedly one of the companies that has placed preliminary bids of more than $1.5 billion on Kellogg's Keebler, Famous Amos and fruit snacks businesses. If B&G is successful in this purchase, it would no doubt want Cantwell's M&A insight that has proven successful to the business during his tenure. An acquisition of $1.5 billion or more would be a sizable deal for a company sporting a $1.8 billion market cap.
"During Mr. Cantwell’s tenure, B&G Foods has completed more than 20 acquisitions and grown from a small, regional pickle company to a leading public food company with a diverse portfolio of iconic brands," Stephen Sherrill, B&G's chairman, said in a statement. "As chief executive officer over the last four years, Mr. Cantwell has transformed B&G Foods by completing six acquisitions, including the Green Giant acquisition and the spices & seasonings acquisition, the two largest acquisitions in company history."
With Cantwell stepping aside as CEO, the responsibility to oversee B&G will fall to company insider Romanzi. While he has only been working for the New Jersey food maker since December 2017, he comes with an extensive food background that should make the transition relatively seamless. Before joining B&G, he served as president of fresh foods at WhiteWave where he led Earthbound Farm Organic. He also has stints working for Ocean Spray, Nabisco, Cadbury Schweppes and Frito-Lay.
In a statement, Romanzi indicated he was intent on following through on the strategy put in place by Cantwell and his predecessors. "I look forward to ... creating stockholder value through high-margin brands and a disciplined acquisition strategy," he said.
The packaged food industry has struggled as consumers shift toward healthier, fresher and trendier items produced by more nimble upstarts. B&G has withstood some of these challenges by showing an innate ability to acquire underperforming brands and rejuvenate them through innovation, and in at least one case, sell it.
After purchasing Green Giant, B&G added several innovative products — including veggie tots and riced veggies — that have turned the brand into one of the company's most consistent money makers. And last year, B&G sold Pirate Brands, the maker of better-for-you snacks — including Pirate's Booty, Smart Puffs and Original Tings — to Hershey for $420 million, only five years after buying it for $195 million. The pressure will be on Romanzi to continue to find these unloved brands as a way to boost sales and keep B&G competitive with other big-name CPG companies and smaller upstarts.