Schneider, 50, will take over on January 1, replacing outgoing chief Paul Bulcke who has been nominated to become the company’s chairman. In tapping Schneider for the post, Nestle bucked its near century-long track-record of picking in-house candidates as chief executives.
The last time the company selected an outsider as chief executive was in 1922, when banker Louis Dappels was brought in to reverse financial losses. Nestle said Schneider’s selection points towards a shift in the company’s strategy.
With concerns about rising obesity on all continents, the company that has long been associated with fattening packaged foods wants to get in front of a global pivot towards nutrition. In announcing Schneider’s hiring, the company’s board “reconfirmed the long-term orientation for Nestle as a Nutrition, Health and Wellness company,” a statement said.
Choosing Schneider, a German-US national who thrived as the head of the healthcare company Fresenius, was consistent with that strategy, the board said. “Schneider will trigger a new era at Nestle,” Bank Vontobel analyst Jean-Philippe Bertschy wrote.
The new chief’s plans may include a “radical” streamlining of the company’s product portfolio, especially in traditional areas like chocolate, while pursuing new opportunities in the health sector, according to Bertschy.