Hannover-based Utz said the leadership change was initially contemplated in 2020, during its merger with Collier Creek Holdings – a special purpose acquisition company set up by a former Kraft Foods executive.
The company described the move as a ‘natural next step as Utz continues to develop as a public company’.
The search for the next CEO looked at both internal and external candidates before identifying Friedman as the ‘ideal successor’, with “the right CPG experience and expertise to lead the company as it accelerates its proven growth strategy.”
In a statement, Utz said Friedman has “built a proven track record of profitably growing businesses through world-class marketing, strategy and innovation … and has deep experience in new business integration, commercial execution and value creation.”
Friedman – a Dickinson College and New York University’s Stern School of Business alum – started his career in the US Army, completing his service as captain. He has subsequently had more than 25 years of experience in the F&B sector, having worked in executive roles at Kraft Heinz for more than 20 years, before joining Post Consumer Brands as CEO and president in 2018. He was promoted to EVP and COO of Post Holdings in September 2021.
He will joint Utz as CEO on 15 December and will also serve as a member of the board.
Track record of success
Lissette – who married into the family that has owned Utz for over a century (his wife Stacie Rice is the great-granddaughter of William and Salie Utz who started making potato chips in their tiny Pennsylvania kitchen in 1921) – has been with Utz for 27 years and as CEO since 2013, guiding the company through its evolution from a regional snack brand to the third-largest branded salty snacks business in the US.
During his tenure as CEO, he oversaw sales growth almost treble to reach over $1.3bn; Utz’s debut as a public company; and the completion of six acquisitions since the company’s public listing in 2020.
Today, the 101-year-old producer manufactures over 300 million pounds of salty snacks annually – from potato chips to cheese balls and pretzels.
“I have had the honour and privilege to work for and to help lead this great company for nearly three decades,” said Lissette.
“It has been immensely gratifying to see the success of our team over so many years, as Utz continues to achieve enhanced scale while never compromising the family crafted quality and great flavours that our consumers expect.
“Our track record of success has been incredible, and I am truly excited to transition into the role of executive chairman and to welcome Howard to our team.
Just getting started
“Howard brings extensive experience increasing market share and unlocking growth potential, with a focus on building innovative brands and strategic business development. The board and I are confident that he will help lead Utz to tremendous success as we grow our presence across geographies, salty snack sub-categories and channels.”
Friedman added, “I see enormous potential to continue Utz’s exciting journey. I am confident that – with such a values-driven, passionate organisation, and a portfolio of iconic snacks beloved by families across the US – Utz is just getting started.
“I am eager to start this new chapter, to drive value, expand the company’s reach and deliver growth as we produce world-class product innovation and the flagship snacks consumers have connected with for more than a century.”
Lissette will become executive chairman on 15 December, transitioning to non-executive chairman of the board in the second quarter of 2023. Current chair Roger Deromedi will become lead independent director.
“Utz has been blessed with talented associates every step of the way on our journey to becoming one of the largest salty snack companies in the country,” said Michel Rice, Utz Chairman Emeritus, previous CEO for more than 30 years and Lissette’s father-in-law.
“With the foundation that Dylan and the team have built, and now under Howard’s leadership, I feel we have tremendous continued growth potential. The Utz team continues to strengthen our nationwide capabilities, and our associates always amaze me with their passion for creating the best snack foods in the industry.”
Utz manufactures some of the world’s most popular snack brands, including Utz, On the Border, Golden Flake, Zapp’s, Good Health, Boulder Canyon, Hawaiian Brand and Tortiyahs!
Based in Hanover, Pennsylvania, it has multiple manufacturing facilities located across the US, with products distributed nationally through grocery, mass merchandisers, club, convenience, drug and other channels.
In August, the company reaffirmed its fiscal year 2022 outlook, expecting total net sales growth of 13%-15%, organic net sales growth of 10%-12% and adjusted EBITDA growth of 2%-5%.