Barry Callebaut makes strategic investment; appoints CFO and regional president North America

Sept. 12, 2023
The investment helps move Barry Callebaut closer to markets and customers while fostering simplicity and digitization.

Barry Callebaut Group, a leading manufacturer of high-quality chocolate and cocoa products, announced a strategic investment program – BC Next Level – to pave the way for the next decade of sustainable growth by moving Barry Callebaut closer to markets and customers while fostering simplicity and digitization.

Highlights include:

  • Group to invest CHF 500 million over the next two years in core customer areas and in efficiency measures leading to CHF 250 million annual cost reductions supporting margins and cash flow.
  • Core element of the program is a new operating model that increases the number of regions from three to five and establishes a customer supply and development organization.
  • Former Ontex CFO Peter Vanneste appointed as chief financial officer effective November 1, 2023; Ben De Schryver to become regional president North America.

CEO Peter Feld said in the announcement: “Our mission is to be the heart and the engine for the global cocoa and chocolate industry. We have delivered robust growth for nearly 25 years. Due to evolving customer demands for more sustainable and innovative products, now is the time to bring the Group to the next level by strategically investing in its future. We will move decision-making closer to our markets and customers while fostering simplicity and digitization to advance our well-recognized innovation and sustainability approach to deliver additional value for all our stakeholders.”

The program includes a net investment of CHF 500 million in areas such as innovation, service, sustainability and quality powered by digital platforms that boost speed to market and facilitate deeper partnerships with customers.  

The BC Next Level operating model will move Barry Callebaut closer to its markets and customers while implementing globally standardized and digitized processes to further increase growth, profitability and efficiency.

Barry Callebaut will increase its regional footprint from three to five regional divisions – Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, North America, Latin America, and Asia Pacific Middle East and Africa – each encompassing five to six country clusters. This also includes the creation of Barry Callebaut’s new customer supply and development organization to enhance product delivery and scale innovation faster globally, while delivering technical service locally to customers.

Patrick De Maeseneire, chairman of Barry Callebaut’s board of directors, said in the announcement: “With BC Next Level, Barry Callebaut is set to become even more customer focused, agile, and efficient. The Board is convinced that these actions will secure the long-term success of the company and benefit all stakeholders. The management team can count on our full support for the implementation of the action plan presented today.”

New leadership to support strategic priorities

Barry Callebaut will create new global responsibilities within the enabling functions finance, HR, and technology to further improve processes, and launch a customer supply and development organization with an experienced leadership team to drive this key area for its customers.

The executive committee will be reduced to six from the current nine members.

New members will be:

  • Peter Vanneste, joining on November 1, 2023, as chief financial officer.
  • Jutta Suchanek, joining on October 1, 2023, as chief people and diversity officer.
  • Dr. Clemens Woehrle, joining on October 1, 2023, as chief customer supply and development officer.

Jo Thys, currently chief operations officer, will assume accountability as president operations strategy and innovation, reporting to Clemens Woehrle. In addition, current CFO Ben De Schryver will return to a commercial role and assume responsibility for the North America regional division as regional president. Vamsi Mohan Thati will become regional president for the APAC, Middle East and Africa region. All regions will report directly to the CEO.

Steve Woolley, president and CEO Americas, Masha Vis-Mertens, CHRO, and Rogier van Sligter, president EMEA, have decided to pursue new endeavors outside of Barry Callebaut.

Maeseneire added in the announcement: “We are delighted to embark on this journey in this new leadership configuration. With these changes we bring important new skills to Barry Callebaut for moving to our next level while retaining a good balance of passionate and talented people from within Barry Callebaut. We have the right team in place to drive our sustainable growth plans. At the same time, we thank Steve, Masha, and Rogier for their major contributions through the years and their strong commitment to this company and wish them all the best for their future careers. They have been a very important part of our recent history and we greatly appreciate the impact they had on Barry Callebaut.”

Background Information on new joiners:

Peter Vanneste most recently served as CFO at the publicly listed personal hygiene group Ontex. He brings extensive experience as CFO in public and private consumer goods companies as well as general management, particularly from his time at Jacobs Douwe Egberts, where he spent more than 15 years, including the last two years as Group CFO, and Procter & Gamble. His experience as a CFO of a publicly traded company combined with a skillset developed from shaping finance functions within the consumer goods industry will make a significant contribution to BC Next Level. Peter Vanneste studied commercial engineering at KU Leuven and holds an MBA from the University of Chicago.

During her career, Jutta Suchanek has gained extensive global transformation experience across all HR, talent, and culture dimensions, heading several complex and global HR roles, both in private and public listed companies. Her appointment at Barry Callebaut marks a return to a Swiss-based company, having previously worked at Syngenta in both Basel and Singapore. Jutta Suchanek joins from GfK SE, where she was chief human resource and diversity officer for the last six years. GfK recently merged with its US competitor NielsenIQ. Jutta Suchanek holds a degree in business education from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich.

Dr. Clemens Woehrle joins with deep transformational and leadership experience in end-to-end supply chain management across both global FMCG and B2B companies. He most recently served as COO for WMF, a leading professional cookware and automatic coffee machine maker. He spent seven years at Beiersdorf AG, leading a supply chain transformation to a customer-driven supply network and six years at Reckitt Benckiser prior to joining WMF. Holding a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Freiburg, he provides an academic research background, combined with operational expertise of product development, customer-led innovation and scale up processes.


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