McCain Foods taps COO as new CEO

McCain Foods has hired from within for its new president and CEO, naming its chief operating officer Dirk Van de Put on Friday to run the Canadian frozen-food giant.

In what the company calls a “planned transition,” Van de Put replaces Dale Morrison, who’s leaving the company after seven years as CEO to become a founding partner in an as-yet-unnamed private equity firm.

The transition takes effect July 1, the company said.

“Under (Morrison’s) leadership, McCain is both far stronger and far better positioned for future growth worldwide,” board chairman Allison McCain said in a release Friday.

Van de Put moved to Toronto from Miami to become McCain’s COO in May 2010, having joined the company after a stint at Swiss drug firm Novartis, where he was president of the company’s global over-the-counter consumer health division.

Before joining Danone he worked for over 10 years for dairy firm Groupe Danone, lastly as president of its Americas division, and previously in management roles with food firm Mars Inc. in Belgium, Puerto Rico and Argentina, and with Coca-Cola in Puerto Rico and Brazil.

Raised in Belgium, Van de Put completed his doctorate of veterinary medicine from the University of Gent and, in 1987, an MBA from the University of Antwerp.

Headquartered in New Brunswick, McCain Foods now employs 20,000 people at 53 plants worldwide — including 12 in Canada — with annual sales of over $6 billion in over 160 countries.

Apart from its frozen pizza, juice, dessert and prepared meals businesses, the company now bills itself as the “world’s largest manufacturer of frozen potato specialties,” with its potato plants producing about a million pounds of products per hour combined and about a third of the world’s frozen French fry supply.

It also owns McCain Produce, a potato production company with a crop nutrition subsidiary, and New Brunswick-based Day + Ross, one of Canada’s biggest transportation companies.

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