Current executive chairman Nish Kankiwala is to replace Wilks, who will leave the business on May 13. Wilks will have been in the role for 359 days.
Hovis is the UK’s second-largest bread brand and, like many players in the UK market, has suffered steep sales declines as a result of intense price competition between UK retailers and a consumer shift away from sliced standard bread.
Bread sales fall by $86m
Around £60m ($86m) was wiped off Hovis pre-packed branded bread sales in 2015 – a decline of 18% by value on volume down 5.9%, according to IRI data [52w/e 2 January 2016].
Wilks had been managing director of Dairy Crest before joining Hovis, and prior to that spent 20 years with Mars in roles including president of the snackfood division of Masterfoods USA and MD of Mars, France. He has also held commercial roles at United Biscuits and Cadbury Schweppes.
Hovis said his decision to retire would enable him to spend more time with his family and increase his involvement with the governing body of the All England Netball Association, where he is a non-executive director.
Former president of Burger King
Kankiwala joined Hovis in May 2014, shortly after it was split off from Premier Foods as a joint venture with US firm The Gores Group. He has previously been chairman of Jeyes Holdings and baby food company Plum Foods, and has been president of Pepsico Beverages Europe and Burger King International, the fast food chain’s operation outside North America.
“Hovis would like to thank Martyn for his time and commitment to the business, and for the contribution he has made during his time here,” said Kankiwala. “We wish him all the best for the future.”
Hovis said the continuity of leadership would enable a smooth transition for the Hovis executive team and the wider business, adding Kankiwala’s experience of Hovis, and his broad consumer goods background, “sets Hovis up for the next stage of its journey as one of the UK’s favorite brands”.
The company employs about 3,400 people at nine bakeries, six flour mills and two regional distribution centers. In addition to Hovis, the business also makes Mothers Pride and Ormo branded bread, and retailer own-label bakery products.