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Cheers to Diageo’s first female CEO & other people moves in agrifood

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To keep us all up to speed on the latest people moves in agrifood, AFN publishes a monthly column of the industry’s biggest leadership changes.

Are you in a new role or company? Know someone who has left? Drop me a line to share the details: [email protected].


Diageo’s Debra Crew. Image credit: Diageo

A toast to Diageo’s first female CEO

Hold onto your drinks, folks. Diageo‘s current CEO Sir Ivan Menezes is retiring at the end of June. Current COO Debra Crew will step into the role, becoming the UK spirits company’s first-ever female CEO.

Upon Crew’s promotion, women will make up more than 50% of Diageo’s executive committee, a feat that’s still quite the rarity in food and bev corporates.

Nor is Crew a stranger to leadership roles and CPGs. She’s former CEO of Reynolds American (acquired by British American Tobacco in 2017) and former president of North America Nutrition at PepsiCo. She’s also held positions at Nestlé, Mars and other CPGs.

Under Menezes’ reign, Diageo ranked number one in the UK and number two globally in Equileap’s 2023 Gender Equality Report. This year, he was awarded a knighthood for services to business and to equality.

Susan T. Mayne, Ph.D. Image credit: US FDA

Time to ‘pass the baton’ at the FDA

Speaking of female leaders, Susan Mayne, head of the FDA‘s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) for eight years, will retire May 31.

Mayne’s tenure at CFSAN includes implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), labeling reforms, and issuing the first no questions letters for cultivated meat companies.

But her resignation also comes as the FDA restructures its Human Foods program, which is nobody’s favorite department after last year’s baby formula shortage.

Mayne herself voiced support for the restructure in a letter distributed by CFSAN and obtained by Food Dive. “[I]t is time for me to pass the leadership baton to a new generation of leadership who can commit to implementing the Commissioner’s vision in the coming years.”

As FD notes, upon Mayne’s departure, “there will be vacancies in leadership at both of the major divisions that deal with food.” So we’re not sure yet to whom Mayne is passing the proverbial baton.

Nobell Foods’ Sergey Solomatin. Image credit: Nobell Foods

Nobell hires Impossible vet

Alt-cheese startup Nobell Foods recently scored a big win hiring Sergey Solomatin formerly of Impossible Foods. Solomatin, who’s spent the last decade at Impossible, specializes in nucleic acid biochemistry as well as biophysics, polymer chemistry, and pharmaceutical sciences.

Nobell said in a statement that “. . . Solomatin brings an industry-leading understanding of the connection between rigorous biochemical research and groundbreaking, delicious, scalable food products.”

Solomatin, who led the Materials and Textures research group at Impossible, was critical to the company’s success in advancing its ground beef analogs. As vice president of food science and product development at Nobell, he’ll lead the charge in making alt-cheese stretchier, meltier and more like its animal-based counterpart.

More people moves

🍔 Believer Meats puts faith in a new Burger. The cultivated meat startup has appointed Gustavo Burger as its new CEO. Burger was previously COO of Believer and is a longtime leader in the CPG world, with stints at BRF, Anheuser-Busch InBev and The Kraft Heinz Company under his belt.

📉 CEO Jim Leighton out as Kalera files Chapter 11. Leighton’s time at vertical farming company Kalera, Inc. “ended so that Mr. Leighton could pursue other opportunities.” Just this week, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It will continue to operate as “debtor-in-possession” under the Bankruptcy Court to determine a path forward.

🌿 Freight Farms grows its team. Ed Barrett, previously of food e-commerce platform Zuppler, joined as chief marketing officer; he’ll lead Freight Farms’ sales and marketing efforts. Steve Struebing was appointed vice president of software engineering. He was most recently head of technology products at Fifth Season, a robotic vertical farm that shuttered at the end of 2022.

🚜 Predictive agriculture startup Agrology adds a sustainability expert to its board. Devry Boughner Vorwerk, whose resume includes Cargill and Grubhub, will work with the Agrology executive team to increase the company’s sustainability initiatives both nationally and abroad.

🥗 Bowery hires head of sales to spearhead expansion. Matt Williams joins as chief sales offer and will assist with the expansion of both the company’s farms and its retail locations. He joins from plant-based frozen foods company Tattooed Chef and boasts a long list of other food companies on his resume.

April layoffs tracker

🇮🇳 Food delivery service Dunzo fires 30% of its staff after securing $75 million.

🇺🇸 Uber-owned alcohol e-commerce shop Drizly starts “company wide” layoffs impacting about 100 staff.

🇬🇧 Delivery giant Just Eat Takeaway will lay off “as many as” 1,700 delivery drivers and about 170 operations staff.

🇦🇺 Digital restaurant ordering startup Mr. Yum cuts headcount by 40, citing a need to focus on profitability.

🇯🇵 Recipe site Cookpad dismisses 80 overseas employees while 46 more voluntarily retire.

🇺🇸 Instant grocery startup Gopuff cans more than 100 to save cash as the eGrocery sector implodes.

 

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