- Miguel Patricio will take over as CEO of Kraft Heinz on July 1, the company said in a statement. He will succeed Bernardo Hees, who will remain in the top role through June 30.
- Patricio joins Kraft Heinz after two decades at AB InBev, where he served as part of the executive leadership team. He served in various positions, driving organic growth and industry-leading margins. Patricio was AB InBev's global chief marketing officer from 2012 to 2018.
- “Miguel is a proven business leader with a distinguished track record of building iconic consumer brands around the globe, driving top-line revenue growth through a focus on consumer-first marketing, innovation, and people development,” said Alex Behring, chairman of Kraft Heinz’s board of directors.
Patricio's appointment to CEO of the maker of its namesake ketchup, Jell-O and Lunchables comes at a challenging time for the food giant. Just two months ago, Kraft Heinz shocked Wall Street by announcing a dividend cut, weak guidance outlook, the write-down in the value of its Kraft and Oscar Mayer brands by $15.4 billion and an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission into its procurement accounting and control policies.
Patricio will have his hands full when he takes over in July. His prior experience at AB InBev will no doubt prove useful in helping him navigate the rapidly changing food and beverage space, where consumers are flocking to better for you options — often times from crafty, more nimble upstarts seen as more in touch with shoppers.
According to Kraft Heinz, Patricio helped grow brands at AB InBev, including Corona, Budweiser and Stella Artois. He also was AB InBev’s president of Asia Pacific from 2008 to 2012, and president of North America from 2006 to 2008, providing him with deep experience in growing businesses in both developed and emerging markets.
AB InBev, like Kraft Heinz, has 3G Capital as a major shareholder. The Brazilian company was intimately familiar with Patricio from his time at AB InBev. With three 3G co-founders on Kraft Heinz's board, including the CPG giant's chairman, the private equity firm likely played an influential role in getting Patricio into the CEO role at the U.S. company. It remains to be seen whether naming someone who has worked at AB InBev where the company faces many of the same problems as Kraft Heinz will be enough to help revive the beleaguered food manufacturer.
Kraft Heinz and AB InBev are known for their mega-brands that are losing market share, which is a major reason the stocks of both companies have slid since 3G became involved. While 3G, which focuses on slashing costs through zero-based budgeting, excelled at the financials, it had less expertise building brands and growing sales — especially in the face of the rapid shift by consumers toward healthier, fresher and natural brands that clashed with many of the offerings in its portfolio. The company is reportedly is looking to divest its Breakstone's dairy business and its Maxwell House coffee brand in an effort to better position the company for today's consumer.
In an interview with CNBC, Patricio said he plans to focus his attention on improving Kraft Heinz’s speed, organic growth, brand building and making the company more consumer focused.
“I bring very different profile [than Hees],” Patricio told the business network, referring in part to his background in marketing. “My profile can help the future. It’s not about liking what happened, it’s about understanding the future. We need to lead, not follow.”
As consumer tastes continue to change and big food companies scramble to invest in growth after years of cost cutting and focus on margin improvements, the pressure will be on Kraft Heinz to stabilize its business. Patricio will have the time between now and becoming CEO to assess the company and determine the changes he wants to make, but the Portugal native will have to move quickly to prevent Kraft Heinz from falling even further behind once he takes over.