- Hershey's board of directors announced Wednesday that the company will appoint 11-year company veteran and current COO Michele Buck as its new president and CEO, effective March 1, 2017, according to a news release.
- Buck will succeed current president and CEO John Bilbrey, who announced in October that he was stepping down from those positions. Bilbrey will continue serving the company as non-executive chairman of the board.
- Buck has been integral to a number of key growth initiatives at the company in her 11-year tenure, including switching the company from a supply- to demand-driven business model and the company's expansion into nearby snacking categories, including overseeing the Krave and barkThins acquisitions.
Buck faces significant challenges but also a positive outlook as she prepares to take the reins of a company she's helped grow over the past decade. In its latest earnings report, Hershey reported both net sales and earnings growth and raised its earnings outlook for the year.
But before that, Hershey had struggled to keep investors' confidence after sales slumps and Mondelez's attempted and failed takeover of the company earlier this year. Also, the costs of cocoa have been volatile, which combined with sagging sales to cause Credit Suisse to downgrade Hershey in April. This could be one contributing factor to Hershey's expansion to other non-confection snack products and "snack-fections" through both acquisitions and internal R&D.
Buck's appointment also means another exciting step forward for food and beverage: She will expand the ranks of a relatively small number of female CEOs in the industry. Hershey will join PepsiCo, Mondelez and Campbell in employing top female executives. This could encourage more leadership roles for women, particularly if Buck continues to successfully lead and expand the company's growth initiatives.
However, the jury's out on where Buck might fit in should Hershey be acquired under her leadership. Despite Mondelez's failed attempt, Hershey may not be off the table for Mondelez or other potential acquirers down the road — if a buyer can get the Hershey Trust and Pennsylvania attorney general on board.