Hershey names Michele Buck new COO
- Hershey named its president of North America Michele Buck as executive vice president and COO Thursday, effective immediately. This is a new position for the company.
- In her new role, Buck will still oversee daily operations for the North America market, but she will now also be responsible for Central and South America. Buck joined Hershey in 2005 as senior vice president and global CMO, and in 2011, she was given the role of chief growth officer.
- Buck will lean on her more than 25 years of experience in consumer goods for the new executive role, including stints in various senior positions at Kraft/Nabisco and brand management at PepsiCo's Frito-Lay.
President, chairman, and CEO John Bilbrey said in a statement that Buck has been working closely with him for years on the global growth strategies that the company is currently pursuing. He said that Buck's blend of industry, retail, and consumer knowledge "uniquely qualifies her" for the new COO role.
With 85% of the company's top line coming from North America alone and the promise of growth in emerging markets, Buck has opportunities to establish a more global presence for Hershey. Hershey will have to mobilize its confections business to be versatile enough to adapt to consumer trends.
Judging by its recent performance at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, Hershey recognizes this and is putting innovation first. The company took home the top innovation award at the expo for its hybrid of Reese's peanut butter cups and Reese's Pieces.
Last year, Hershey debuted its new premium chocolate line Kisses Deluxe to capitalize on fast growth in that segment, and it released Hershey's Kisses and milk chocolate bars without artificial colors or flavors. Earlier this year, Hershey acquired premium chocolate bar brand barkTHINS, released a line of protein bars under the Krave jerky brand, and announced a regional launch of its better-for-you SoFit snack brand.
Buck also has work ahead of her. Hershey has struggled in recent months with sales and margins, according to Credit Suisse, which downgraded the company in April. Commodity costs for sugar and cocoa have been low, but they are expected to rise again, which could impact profitability.
In its latest earnings report, Hershey posted a 5.6% decrease in net sales, its third consecutive quarter of sales declines.