- John Foraker wrote in a post on LinkedIn that he is stepping down as president of the Annie’s division of General Mills. His 18-year career at Annie’s took it from startup to the successful sale to General Mills in 2014, where he stayed on nearly three more years to lead the unit and oversee the transition.
- While Foraker states he’s leaving to join an “exciting new company in the food space,” he also indicates he will continue on as an advisor to General Mills’ North American leadership team and the Annie’s unit.
- The company has named Carla Vernon as Foraker’s successor. “Carla is very experienced and has significant passion for, and experience in, the natural & organic space,” Foraker wrote on LinkedIn. “Carla is a purpose-driven leader who will maintain the culture and authenticity of the Annie’s operating unit, and help the broad enterprise continue its journey to become the most dominant CPG player in natural & organic across North America.”
In a note to Annie’s fans posted on the company's website following the merger with General Mills, Foraker wrote: “When Annie’s joined General Mills in 2014, we did so with the goal of bringing more of our great tasting, organic products to more stores and more people across the country, with zero compromise to our company mission. Because of our partnership with General Mills, we at Annie’s are able to make a bigger impact faster than ever before.”
Under Foraker’s leadership, at Annie’s for 18 years and with General Mills for three, the organic brand seems to have accomplished what it set out to do. Foraker led the mega-successful transition of Annie’s under General Mills. “Over the past three years we nearly doubled the business, nearly doubled the percentage of our business that is certified organic, and extended our reach from 8 million to 20 million households,” Foraker wrote.
Now, Foraker says the “integration of Annie’s is 100% complete.” Annie’s culture has stayed intact throughout the transition and the business has flourished. Noting that he was asked to stay on for one year after the acquisition, Foraker said he stayed longer to ensure Annie’s could self-sustain inside General Mills. He’s now confident that it can and will.
The consistency of Foraker’s leadership during the transition and into the mega-growth phase positions Annie’s well for the future. While Foraker’s departure is a loss for the brand, he posted on LinkedIn that he’s just “hopping down, but not off, the bunny trail” as he’ll remain an advisor to General Mills and Annie’s. But, he’s also off to join an undisclosed entrepreneurial company in the food space. If his accomplishments with Annie’s are any indication, the new company is bound for success.
General Mills was fortunate to retain Foraker for as long as it did. In contrast, some other CPGs choose a different route post-acquisition. Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, for example, replaced Bai founder Ben Weiss with a company insider five months after the deal closed. The risk is that without Weiss, Bai may no longer have the creative vision that made it successful in the first place.
Little is known about why Ben Weiss, who started Bai in 2009 in the basement of his New Jersey home, departed. But the fact that Dr Pepper replaced him with a ten-year veteran from within, however, suggests executives were looking for a change in direction and didn't believe Weiss or other officials at Bai were the answer. Foraker didn't seem to have the same problem at General Mills.