General Mills Operating Chief to Become CEO

By Imani Moise Features Dow Jones Newswires

General Mills Inc. said Wednesday that Chief Operating Officer Jeff Harmening will become its next chief executive, completing a transition plan set in motion last year.

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Mr. Harmening succeeds Ken Powell, who will step down next month after a decade at the helm. Mr. Powell will remain chairman until he retires in 2018.

Mr. Harmening, who has spent 23 years at General Mills, has gained acclaim for spearheading the company's successful turn toward natural foods. He drove the acquisition of natural-and-organic food maker Annie's Inc., the divestiture of the Green Giant canned and frozen vegetable business, and the removal of artificial colors in General Mills signature cereals like Trix.

The announcement comes as the packaged food industry struggles to keep pace with changing consumer tastes.

In its third quarter ended Feb. 26, General Mills reported a 5.2% drop in sales. It is expected to report its eighth consecutive decline in sales in its fiscal fourth quarter.

Industrywide, the sales volume for packaged food and products fell 2.4% in the first three months of 2017, according to market-research firm Nielsen, as grocery stores opt to give more space to fresher foods.

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The trend has put many executives in the hot seat. Facing pressure from investors, snack-giant Hershey Co. named a new CEO late last year and Mondelez International Inc. is preparing to look for a new leader.

Shares in General Mills edged 0.1% lower to $55.82 during early trading, and are down 9.7% so far this year.

Write to Imani Moise at imani.moise@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 03, 2017 11:39 ET (15:39 GMT)