Tysons Foods announced Monday that Chief Executive Officer Tom Hayes is stepping down for personal reasons after serving two years at the helm.
The meat producer said its board of directors has appointed Noel White, a long-time insider and member of the company’s enterprise leadership team, as president and CEO, effective Sept. 30.
Hayes released a statement saying the decision to leave was “very difficult” but after careful consideration and discussions with his family, he knows it is the “right thing to do.”
“I am appreciative of the support from my family and the board for my decision and am confident that Tyson Foods has a bright future with Noel White, along with our enterprise leadership team, as its leader,” Hayes wrote without disclosing personal details on his abrupt exit.
Hayes, who took the helm in June 2016 after CEO Donnie Smith stepped down, has already made significant changes to Tyson’s product portfolio and overall strategy.
When he first took the helm, he launched a campaign to ditch the controversial use of antibiotics in a majority of the company’s poultry.
He told FOX Business last year that the company just got to the point where the consumer was demanding it and wanted transparency.
“They want to have trust in the brands they buy …. [so] let’s push ourselves to go all the way,” Hayes said.
In 2016, he also announced its decision to take a 5 percent stake in plant-based protein maker Beyond Meat, while also launching a venture capital fund worth $150 million to invest in other startups that develop meat substitutes.
Hayes said he sees plant-based protein playing a big part of the food industry's future.
“If you take a look at the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) stats, protein consumption is growing around the world—and it continues to grow. It’s not just hot in the U.S.; it’s hot everywhere, people want protein, so whether it’s animal-based protein or plant-based protein, they have an appetite for it. Plant-based protein is growing almost, at this point, a little faster than animal-based, so I think the migration may continue in that direction,” Hayes told FOX Business in 2017.
John Tyson, chairman of Tyson’s board of directors, said Hayes played an important role in the company’s continued development and added that White, who has a "stellar" track record over his more than 30-year career at Tyson, will no doubt “drive the business forward and create long-term value for shareholders.”