Kellogg CEO John Bryant to Step Down -- Update

By Annie Gasparro Features Dow Jones Newswires

Kellogg Co. Chief Executive John Bryant is stepping down next week after nearly seven years leading the cereal and snack giant through a tumultuous time in the food industry.

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Steven Cahillane, chief executive of health-and-wellness company Nature's Bounty and a former Coca-Cola Co. executive, will join Kellogg to succeed Mr. Bryant, the company said Thursday.

Kellogg, the maker of Frosted Flakes, Pop-Tarts and Pringles, has been battling sluggish sales as Americans stray from big brands and processed foods, in favor of fresher, more niche alternatives.

It isn't alone in its difficulties. Other big food makers are also starving for sales growth. Mondelez International Inc., Hershey Co. and General Mills Inc. have all announced new chiefs in the past year.

Mr. Bryant, 51, will remain chairman of the board until March 15, at which point Mr. Cahillane, 52, will assume that role. Mr. Bryant said his successor has "an exceptional track record" and will "continue the transformation" of Kellogg.

Mr. Bryant said in a statement Thursday that he chose to retire. It is unclear when the discussions for succession began. Kellogg declined to comment.

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The company's core business, cereal in the U.S., has weighed on its performance for years. Last month, Kellogg said its quarterly sales fell 2.5% to $3.19 billion, including a 2% drop in North America. On a comparable basis, sales fell 3.8%.

Mr. Bryant, who was born in Australia, joined Kellogg in 1998 and had stints in global strategic planning, as finance chief and as chief operating officer, before taking on the CEO job in 2011.

At the time, the 45-year-old inherited a swath of lagging cereal brands like Special K and Rice Krispies, which were becoming outdated as consumers sought fresher and more natural products in the grocery aisles. High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets had left cereal behind, while more convenient and trendy protein bars and egg sandwiches gained popularity.

Mr. Bryant aimed to turned around Kellogg following the sudden departure of his predecessor and fellow Australian David Mackay. About a year into Mr. Bryant's tenure, Kellogg acquired Pringles chips, signaling a strategic shift to become more of a snacking company with a greater focus on global markets.

The acquisition has served the company well but the its main cereal business has continued to suffer. In an effort to boost sales, Kellogg is renovating its brands to include simpler, more natural ingredients. It has said products like frozen Eggo waffles, which no longer contain artificial colors, have improved sales.

Meanwhile, Kellogg has followed its peers in the U.S. food industry in drastically cutting costs through layoffs at its corporate headquarters and by closing factories in response to lower demand for its food.

Over the past year, Kellogg's stock has fallen 19%, similar to its peers. During his tenure as chief, shares have climbed about 24%.

Write to Annie Gasparro at annie.gasparro@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 28, 2017 09:47 ET (13:47 GMT)