Chocolate maker Barry Callebaut AG has reported a drop in first-half net profit, with sales volumes falling for the second consecutive quarter, it said in a statement.
The group has also announced that Americas chief Peter Boone is to become its new chief executive, effective September 1.
Current chief executive, Antoine de Saint-Affrique, is to leave the post after six years, during which the firm's share price more than doubled. His tenure saw group sales rise by 17% and profit by more than two-thirds before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.
Boone, a former employee of Unilever, joined Barry Callebaut as chief innovation officer in 2012 and assumed additional responsibilities including sustainability efforts.
The Dutch national has led the Americas division since late 2017 where he "achieved solid, profitable, volume growth and expanded its customer portfolio," said the Zurich-based supplier of chocolate and cocoa products for customers including Nestle SA or Mondelez International Inc.
"Peter’s great track record in driving profitable growth, championing groundbreaking innovation, whilst implementing a solid quality culture, building new markets and segments, and, last but not least, his passion for sustainability, make him the perfect candidate to become the group’s new CEO," commented Patrick De Maeseneire, chairman of the board of Barry Callebaut.
"As Barry Calleaut’s current President Americas and former chief innovation officer, Peter’s appointment will ensure continuity and a smooth handover."
Demand for chocolate is showing signs of recovery after a tough year in which the pandemic reduced impulse buying, out-of-home consumption and gift-giving, the group said.
Sales volume fell 2.9% in the six months through February, with a 1.3% decline in the second quarter representing a recovery of sorts from the 4.3% decline of the first quarter.
Saint-Affrique told reporters that though the market environment was "still challenging" with anti-virus lockdown measures in Europe and elsewhere, activity was rebounding in the business catering to chefs and restaurants. The firm said Eastern Europe and South America were among markets where growth was strong.
"Whilst the environment remains volatile, our continued focus on customers, our drive for new opportunities and our strong innovation pipeline, together with a sound balance sheet, make us confident that we are coming out of the crisis stronger and to deliver on our mid-term guidance," he said.
Net profit for the first half year fell in line with volume to 205.7 million Swiss francs (€186.6 million), the firm said.
Still, the group said it was confident in achieving its mid-term guidance of 5% to 7% average volume growth, hand earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) above volume growth for the three years through the business year ending 31 August 2023.