Campbell Soup Co. chief executive officer Denise Morrison unexpectedly stepped down on Friday, after seven years at the helm, at the same time the company said it would embark on a review of its vast array of brands.
Morrison, 64, will be replaced by board member Keith McLoughlin, 61, in the interim, Campbell said, but provided no reason for her departure. Morrison will continue to be on the board.
Under Morrison, Campbell suffered four straight years of sales declines at its core US soups business. She tried to pivot away from the operation and focus on building a healthy fresh food and snack portfolio, pulling off several acquisitions including recently buying Cape Cod chips maker Snyder's Lance for $4.87 billion.
But the moves have not yet helped the company, which cut its full-year profit forecast on Friday to account for the Snyder's Lance deal.
Shares of Campbell were down 11% at $34.85 in early trading, touching a more than five-year low. The stock has struggled under Morrison's tenure, rising just 19 percent since she took over in August 2011, compared with the broader S&P 500 Packaged Foods & Meats index's 62% rise.
"Looking ahead, we will be reviewing all aspects of our strategic plans and portfolio composition. We anticipate that our review, which will take several months to complete, will lead to changes designed to improve our operating performance," chief financial officer Anthony DiSilvestro said in a statement.
Packaged food companies like Campbell have been hurt as consumers shy away from processed foods and shift to more healthier snack options. Campbell's juice business has also been disappointing, a factor that has contributed to a two-year decline in organic sales.
More than a month ago, Campbell said it was reorganising its businesses, giving newly appointed chief operating officer Luca Mignini more control over its main units, including soup, simple meals and shelf-stable beverages.
Morrison's departure adds to an ongoing trend in the packaged food industry. There have been 28 CEO changes in the US packaged food and protein industries since 2010, according to J.P. Morgan, with 10 of those changes occurring since the start of 2017 alone.
On Friday, Campbell Soup posted a loss of $393 million, or $1.31 per share, in the quarter ended 29 April, compared with a profit a year ago, mainly due to a $647 million charge for its Campbell Fresh division, which is now being reviewed.
Excluding items, Campbell earned 70 cents per share, 10 cents above the analysts' average estimate, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Net sales rose 15% to $2.13 billion.
Campbell now expects full-year earnings per share to fall between 5% and 6%, compared with its earlier forecast of a 1% to 3% decline.
News by Reuters, edited by Donna Ahern. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.