- Flowers Foods announced Tuesday that CEO Allen Shiver will retire and step down from the board after 41 years at the company and about six years in the top spot, according to a release.
- Ryals McMullian, the current chief operating officer, will serve as the next president and chief executive officer, starting at the company's 2019 annual meeting of shareholders — which tends to be in late spring.
- Shiver will remain as CEO and as a board member until the annual meeting. After the transition, Shiver will then serve as a non-executive special advisor for Flowers until the end of 2019.
Shiver's retirement wasn't previously announced, so it might come as surprising news to some. The company veteran spent four decades at Flowers Foods and has been CEO since 2013. But with a new executive already announced who will be moving up from inside the company, it seems likely that the transition will be smooth.
Under Shiver's leadership, the company has weathered some difficult times. After slipping sales in the bread market, the company pushed to cut costs and boost its financial position. Flowers announced a five-year restructuring plan, called Project Centennial, two years ago. Its cost-cutting strategies led to buyouts for 450 employees, including 15% of its management.
Although the company has seen financial improvements, Flowers still experienced higher promotional costs, challenges with ingredients and a drop in manufacturing efficiencies that were hurdles for the company last year.
But Shiver also led the company through some big acquisitions. At the end of last year, Flowers Foods announced it acquired gluten-free bakery Canyon Bakehouse LLC for $205 million, which could help attract consumers looking for the health halo of gluten-free products. The company also acquired Dave's Killer Bread and Alpine Valley Bread in 2015, both which boosted Flowers' presence in the bread category's organic and all-natural space.
Although a direct reason wasn't given for why Shiver was stepping down now, he said in the release that he is "leaving the company in very capable hands." McMullian — who is more than 10 years younger than Shiver — is also a company veteran, joining Flowers Foods in 2003. In July, he was named chief operating officer. Before COO, he served as deputy general counsel, vice president of mergers and acquisitions and chief strategy officer.
Shiver is leaving in the midst of the company's five year restructuring plan. But the board is likely confident in McMullian's abilities to help the company's transition to better financial footing since he has led the Project Centennial plan since 2016.
"We will continue to take the necessary steps to better position Flowers for future growth in a dynamic business environment by strengthening critical brand-building capabilities, moving into growing adjacent segments, and better leveraging our cost structure," McMullian said in a release.
Benjamin Griswold, IV, presiding director of Flowers' board, called McMullian the "driving force behind the effort to grow the company into new areas" in the release announcing the executive change. That could be the main reason why he will be stepping up to the top position. With McMullian's experience inside the company as the brand has looked to make a big transition, there will likely be even more changes and potential acquisitions as he takes the helm.