TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA — The changes keep coming at SunOpta Inc.
A day after announcing the sale of its specialty and organic soy and corn business to Pipeline Foods, SunOpta on Feb. 26 said it has terminated the tenure of David J. Colo as president and chief executive officer, citing disappointing financial results and desire for a change in leadership. Colo’s service as a member of SunOpta’s board of directors also has been terminated.
Stepping into Colo’s role on an interim basis will be Katrina L. Houde. A SunOpta director since 2000, Houde served as interim CEO of the company in late 2016, which coincided with the development and launch of SunOpta’s Value Creation Plan. Houde is expected to serve as interim CEO to facilitate an orderly transition while the company’s board of directors forms a search committee to work alongside an executive search firm to identify Colo’s successor.
“The board is moving quickly to identify the next CEO who will accelerate our efforts to drive long-term, sustainable, shareholder value through the Value Creation Plan,” Houde said. “In the interim, I am confident that our talented senior leadership team will continue to execute on our key strategic objectives.”
Despite the turnover at the top, Houde said SunOpta remains committed to its purpose and key strategies.
“Our purpose is to be the most innovative, integrated provider of organic ingredients and healthy fruit solutions across multiple channels,” she said during a Feb. 26 conference call with analysts. “SunOpta is well aligned with consumer trends towards organic and non-GMO foods, and I believe the acceleration in growth that we delivered in the fourth quarter affirms our right to win in this attractive market.
“Our strategy to accomplish our purpose is, first, to innovate and grow in healthy fruit and beverage categories. For example, we’ve long been a leader in the fast-growing category of non-dairy beverages, and we expect to continue to grow in this category with innovation such as oat and hemp milk. Second, to invest in and grow efficient, integrated supply chains, which are in our organic ingredient sourcing business, we can quickly identify consumer trends and leverage our sourcing expertise to deliver field-to-table innovation to our Consumer Products customers while benefiting from a vertically integrated supply chain.
“And third, to focus on food safety and quality and best-in-class operational performance. Since 2016, we’ve made substantial investments in food safety and quality, which have resulted in meaningful improvements to third-party audit scores of our manufacturing facilities.”
Houde said SunOpta’s top priority in 2019 is to drive long-term margin improvements through the company’s fruit margin optimization plan.
“Under this plan, we will intensely focus on optimizing our cost base, leveraging existing capabilities to improve mix and driving innovation in the category, all with the objective of returning our Healthy Fruit business to historical margin performance over the next two crop cycles,” she said.
SunOpta sustained a loss of $117,114,000 in the year ended Dec. 29, 2018, which compared with a loss of $143,129,000 in fiscal 2017. Revenues slipped to $1,260,852,000 from $1,279,593,000.