Annie’s longtime CEO John Foraker announced Thursday that he would be leaving the company to join a food start-up later this month. Foraker, who led Annie’s for nearly two decades, remained on board as president for three years after General Mills acquired the company in 2014 for $820 million.
Details of Foraker’s new project have yet to be made public, but he explains on his LinkedIn blog that it is a San Francisco Bay area startup that he intends to “grow big and fast into a highly disruptive force in the organic food space.”
Foraker explains on his blog that his departure is due to the fact that “the integration of Annie’s [into General Mills] is 100 percent complete.” Foraker had originally only planned to stay at Annie’s for one year following the acquisition, but he ended up staying two additional years to help manage the transition.
“I knew that I’d never willingly leave until I felt that the business and culture of Annie’s were strong enough post-acquisition that they could self-sustain for the long-term inside General Mills,” he writes, though he always knew that he would end up leaving General Mills.
“I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and I was never cut out to do the big corporate thing for the long term.”
Many critics note that Foraker may in fact be departing because General Mills has been suffering difficulties of late. After eight straight quarters of declining sales (and three years of deep cost-cutting efforts resulting in the loss of more than a tenth of its workers), General Mills named Jeff Harmening its new CEO in June. The Star Tribune reported that he was entering his new job at “a time of immense challenge and change” for the company.
But Foraker negates these accusations, explaining in an e-mail that he applauds the way in which General Mills has “bought into the Annie’s culture.”
“Personally I take great satisfaction in this, because the social and environmental impact of Annie’s is driving positive change at scale, something our team always dreamed this brand could do, and not we are seeing it happen,” he writes. “It’s a model for what others can do and that is very exciting too.”
Foraker notes that he will “continue to work closely” with General Mills in an advisor role that he is “tongue-in-cheek self-titling ‘Chairman of the Bunny.’” He will be succeeded as president by Carla Vernon, currently vice president of natural and organic growth acceleration at General Mills.
Since Annie’s was acquired by General Mills, the brand has nearly doubled and has expanded its reach from 8 million U.S. households to 20 million.
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