Utz builds out top ranks with 3 C-suite appointments

Dive Brief:

  • Utz Brands announced a series of appointments to its C-suite, including the appointment of a COO, a new position at the company, a CFO and a chief people officer. 
  • Cary Devore, who has been Utz’s CFO since 2019, will take over as COO, with Ajay Kataria to replace him as the company‘s next CFO. Kataria is now Utz’s executive vice president of finance and accounting. Utz also announced Jim Sponaugle, currently the senior vice president of human resources and personnel development, will become EVP and chief people officer. The executives will take on their new roles Oct. 4.
  • In June, Utz, which has been on an acquisition binge since it became public last year, named Shane Chambers to the newly created role of EVP and chief growth officer and Mark Schreiber executive vice president of sales and chief customer officer.

Dive Insight:

Utz, a manufacturer of chips, cheese balls, pretzels and other snacks, has spent much of its existence as a family-owned business with a major presence on the East Coast. But the company’s decision last year to merge with a SPAC and go public ushered in a host of changes for the 100-year-old Pennsylvania company. 

Utz officially became a publicly traded entity Aug. 31, and since then it has been actively expanding its portfolio and bulking up the ranks of executives needed to oversee its growth. Devore, who joined Utz in 2016 as a board member and transitioned to a full-time operational role in 2017, worked with Utz CEO Dylan Lissette from 2016 to 2019 where M&A was one of his main responsibilities. They completed eight acquisitions, according to the company.

Kataria, who has been with Utz since 2017, also was touted by the company for his prior work in M&A.

The prior experience these executives had working together and their previous deal-making underscores the likelihood that Utz’s recent acquisition streak is not going to abate anytime soon. If that’s the case, it would make sense for Utz to have someone who is not only familiar with the operations of the company but knowledgeable about holes that would be logical to fill through a deal. 

During the last year alone, Utz purchased the H.K. Anderson peanut butter-filled pretzel brand; Truco Enterprises, a manufacturer of On The Border tortilla chips, salsa and queso; and Chicago snack brand Vitner’s for $25 million. Then in May it bought the largest manufacturer of tortilla chips for On The Border to expand its geographic presence and others in its portfolio throughout the Midwest.

“As we evolve as a public company, we will continue to enhance Utz’s leadership team to accelerate our ability to grow and strengthen our organization,” Lissette said in a statement announcing the latest executive appointments. “Today’s announcements provide the company with the optimal organizational structure to execute against our strategy, and will best position Utz to deliver on its commitment to be the fastest-growing, pure-play branded salty snack company of scale in the U.S.”

The barrage of C-suite appointments in just the last month indicate Utz, as a publicly traded company with strong growth ambitions, needs a large bench of experienced executives to make that possible. Snacking has grown in popularity in recent years, and demand for salty offerings like chips, pretzels and cheese puffs have placed companies like Utz in a prime spot to benefit.

Still, Utz pales in size compared to PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay unit and Campbell Soup, which accelerated its snacking presence in 2018 with the $5 billion purchase of Snyder’s-Lance, adding popular snack brands such as Pop Secret, Kettle, Cape Cod and Emerald. 

Source: fooddive.com