US — B&G foods has appointed one of its former and long serving CEOs, David L. Wenner to be the  interim president and chief executive officer of the company following the abrupt departure of  Kenneth G. Romanzi.

The company reported that it has already appointed a special committee to direct the search process to identify the next substantive CEO to replace Romanzi “who is stepping down to pursue personal interests”.

The committee according to a statement from B&G is chaired by Dennis M. Mullen, chairman of the nominating and governance committee, and also includes: DeAnn L. Brunts, Charles F. Marcy and Robert D. Mills.

Romanzi, who previously served as chief operating officer at B&G, had been at the helm of the company for only a year and a half.

He stepped into the role last year after former CEO Robert Cantwell retired.

Commenting on Romanzi’s departure, Stephen C. Sherrill, chairman of the board of directors said: “Under Ken’s leadership, B&G Foods’ financial performance has been very strong during the ongoing pandemic, as our portfolio of leading brands has benefited from increased eating at home, resulting in strong year-over-year growth.”

This abrupt departure may come as a surprise to many in the industry as Romanzi has led B&G through a productive year despite the challenges of the pandemic.  

As home food consumption has skyrocketed during coronavirus lockdowns, B&G has benefited with the company’s portfolio consumption growing by 18% compared to last year in the 13 weeks ended Oct. 3.

Earier this month, B&G had reported earnings with net sales up 22% for the quarter, a testimony of a company that was resilient despite the headwinds brought by the pandemic.

On an earnings call this month, Romanzi discussed plans for innovation coming in 2021 and how the company has invested more in e-commerce as that has grown increasingly important during the pandemic and beyond.

Just 11 days later, to the surprise of many, the company and Romanzi announced he would step aside immediately.

David Wenner, is one of B& G longest serving executives having held the position of president and CEO of the company from 1993 to 2014.

Mr. Wenner has also been a member of B&G Foods’ board of directors since 1997.

“I am very excited for the opportunity to once again lead our company, work with our talented executive leadership team, and reinforce the principles and strategies that have helped create tremendous value for all of our stakeholders over the years,” Mr. Wenner said.

 “We will continue to focus on growth, including organic growth and growth through acquisitions, operational improvements and cost reduction efforts.”

Choosing Wenner to fill the interim position will likely help facilitate a smoother transition. Since he has already been CEO and has remained active at B&G.

Sherrill said Wenner is “up to speed on all aspects of our company’s operations and is deeply familiar with our strategy.”

That should give B&G time for its special committee to fully conduct a search for its next permanent CEO.

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