- Andrew Deister has been named president and CEO of Russell Stover Chocolates, according to Food Business News. Deister replaces Andreas Pfluger, who became CEO after the iconic brand was purchased by Lindt & Sprüngli in 2014.
- Deister was previously president and CEO of Robert Rothschild Farm, a specialty food company. Food Business News said he also had held leadership roles in marketing, sales and innovation at global consumer packaged goods firms, including Procter & Gamble and Abbott Nutrition.
- “This company has an extraordinary history, but I believe its best days lie ahead, and I look forward to working with the management team and front-line employees toward building a new and exciting future for this great company and its iconic American brands,” Deister told the business publication.
Deister will take the helm of Russell Stover, best known for its boxes of chocolates, caramels, marshmallow and other bite size candies, with the responsibility of building the brand and expanding the company's presence through new products. His knowledge of the food business will be invaluable as Deister comes into the job with experience on how to make, distribute and sell products in the ultra-competitive sweets business. As CEO of Robert Rothschild, Deister oversaw a large roster of products, including hot pepper peach preserves, raspberry honey mustard dip and dark chocolate dessert toppings.
Founded in the early 1920s, Russell Stover has made a name for itself in the crowded space dominated by Hershey and Mars as well as premium brands such as Ghirardelli, Godiva and Lindt & Sprugli —the parent of Russell Stover.
In addition to traditional chocolates, Russell Stover recently unveiled a new line of its sugar-free chocolates made with stevia leaf extract, matching the taste and quality of its standard chocolates. The company's goal was to show that dark chocolate mint patties, pecan delights, peanut butter cups, coconut and caramel could be tasty without sugar. Even without this new line, Russell Stover is the leader in sugar-free chocolates.
Even as consumers gravitate toward fresher foods and healthier products, chocolate remains in a strong position as people haven't given up the desire to indulge. Data from Statista shows U.S. chocolate consumption continues to steadily rise, with sales expected to reach $22.4 billion in 2017, an increase of $2.3 billion from just four years ago.
Lindt is the third-largest chocolate company in the United States. Russell Stover, which was acquired for $1.5 billion three years ago, is a big reason why. Deister will be counted on to further justify that purchase price and expand its namesake Russell Stover, Whitman's and Pangburn's brands. With consumers snacking on more chocolate than ever, Deister will have a sweet advantage early in his tenure.