- Whole Earth Brands said Albert Manzone will step down as CEO and board member “to pursue other business opportunities” at the end of the year, the company said in a statement.
- The sweetener seller said the board has appointed one of its members, Michael Franklin, to serve as its interim CEO starting Jan. 1. Manzone will assist Franklin and Whole Earth through Feb. 28.
- The executive change at the plant-based sweeteners and flavor enhancers company is the latest one at a food and beverage firm. Hain Celestial, Keurig Dr Pepper, Cargill, Mars and Unilever are some of the other category heavyweights that have announced leadership changes at the top this year.
Manzone, who became CEO of Whole Earth Brands in 2016, has spent the last six years building what has become a decidedly on-trend sweetener portfolio.
Whole Earth Brands went public in June 2020 following a merger with a SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company. At the time, its portfolio included Equal; Whole Earth, a sweetener made largely from stevia and monk fruit; and a pair of brands available outside the U.S.
Since then, it has doled out more than $250 million to purchase Swerve, a keto-focused sugar replacement, and Wholesome Sweeteners, a maker of organic, fair-trade certified sugar, honey, agave nectar, allulose and other liquid sweeteners.
The acquisitions, Manzone told Food Dive in May, provided the Chicago-based company more offerings it could use to grab a bigger slice of the $100 billion sweetener market heavily dominated by sugar. Its strategy is unlikely to waver under a new CEO.
“Looking ahead, the business remains well positioned heading into 2023,” Franklin said in a statement. “Through a combination of organic revenue growth, driven by new innovation and distribution, and our unrelenting focus on productivity, we continue to expect to generate positive free cash flow next year and improve our capital structure.”
Franklin is relatively new to Whole Earth, having joined the board in August 2022. But he brings valuable experience that could prove beneficial to the company.
According to Whole Earth’s press release announcing the CEO transition plan, Franklin is a partner at Mariposa Capital, a Miami-based investment firm focused on long-term value creation across various industries, including CPGs. In his role, he “actively supports operational improvements and M&A execution across a portfolio of companies.”
As CPGs and consumers increasingly look for more choices, Whole Earth has stated it is looking to acquire brands that expand its existing presence with certain ingredients, or enter new up-and-coming offerings that are emerging in popularity. Franklin will be in a position to use his M&A experience to further build out the company’s portfolio.
Whole Earth doesn’t grow or process its sweeteners. The company buys them from ingredient suppliers, then brands them before selling the sweeteners to the public. The company has positioned itself squarely in the discussion as more consumers shun sugar in favor of alternative offerings. The executive turnover, and uncertainty of who will take over permanently as CEO, have done little to minimize the company’s strong position in the sweetener space.