US – SunOpta Inc., a multi-national food and mineral company, has hired Brian W. Kocher as the new Chief Executive Officer effective January 2, 2024.
This appointment comes shortly after the company announced the planned retirement of Joseph D. Ennen, who had served the company for five years.
According to SunOpta, Mr. Ennen will not only retire as its Chief Executive Officer but also as the director on SunOpta’s Board of Directors.
Consequently, in conjunction with this new appointment, Mr. Kocher will also become a member of the Board.
Mr. Kocher brings a wealth of experience in manufacturing-intensive businesses in complex, multi-national organizations and has a strong track record of driving growth and productivity improvements.
Brian previously served as President and Chief Executive Officer of both Calavo Growers Inc., a global avocado-industry leader and provider of convenient, ready-to-eat fresh food.
Before joining Calavo, Mr. Kocher was President and Chief Executive Officer of Castellini Group of Companies, a nationwide produce distribution and supply chain services organization, from May 2015 to January 2022.
Before Castellini, Mr. Kocher spent ten years at Chiquita Brands International, Inc., including as Interim Chief Executive Officer, EVP and Chief Operating Officer, SVP and Chief Financial Officer, President of Europe, President of North America, Vice President, Controller and Chief Accounting Officer.
Mr. Kocher graduated from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio with a Bachelor of Business Administration (Accounting) degree.
The Board is confident in Mr. Kocher’s ability to lead SunOpta through its next phase of growth and his experience expanding margins and driving operational productivity will be incredibly valuable to the business.
To ensure a seamless transition, which the Board believes is in the best interests of all stakeholders, Mr. Ennen will continue as an advisor to the Board and Mr. Kocher until April 1, 2024.
“On behalf of the entire Board, I want to thank Joe for his invaluable leadership of SunOpta over the past five years,” said Dean Hollis, Chair of SunOpta’s Board. “Joe’s vision and tireless commitment to the success of the Company led to a complete portfolio transformation and solidified our balance sheet, strengthening SunOpta’s competitive position and creating a powerful foundation to support an even brighter future.”
Ennen in his handover speech said: “It has been an honor to serve as CEO of SunOpta during this period of transformative growth and I especially want to thank the SunOpta team for their passion, hard work, and dedication,”
“I believe the Company is well positioned for its next phase of growth with a current portfolio that has demonstrated steady long-term increases in volume, revenue, and Adjusted EBITDA.”
In Ennen’s view, Kocher’s deep food industry expertise, coupled with his shared values and commitment to furthering our purpose, make him the right leader to continue to drive growth and optimize SunOpta’s network.
Kocher expressed his joy and gratitude in starting his new role at SunOpta. He thanked Joe and the Board for entrusting him to lead the Company as they enter this new chapter.
“Joe has set a strong foundation for SunOpta’s growth and success, and I’m excited to continue this momentum by working toward our collective mission of fueling the future of food,” he said.
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