New CEO of Nestle expected to lead company’s health focus

Nestle S.A. announced it has appointed Ulf Mark Schneider of Fresenius Group as its new CEO, to lead the company toward a focus on health and nutrition.

Schneider, 50, currently CEO of the German company Fresenius Group, will replace Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke, who will become chairman of Nestle’s board of directors, after current chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe retires at the end of 2016.

Schneider has led Fresenius, maker of products for dialysis, hospitals and outpatient treatments, for 13 years. The company’s stock price has quadrupled during his tenure.

The appointment of Schenider is regarded as a surprise: No outsider has been chosen to lead the 150-year-old company since 1922.

While Schneider lacks experience in the food and beverage business, Nestlé’s stronghold, the company has recently strengthened its nutrition and health sciences divisions. Schneider’s appointment reinforces Nestle’s emphasis in those fast-growing areas.

“With consumers around the world taking a deeper interest in their personal health and well-being, Nestlé’s industry-leading global food and beverage business positions it well for advancing the vision of nutrition, health and wellness,” Schneider said in a statement after his appointment was announced at Nestlé’s annual general meeting.

Nestle, headquartered in Vevey, Switzerland, is the largest food company in the world. The value of its stock dropped from more than $500 a share in 2007 to a low of just $35 a share in the summer of 2008. It never recovered its value, and in the last 52 weeks has not climbed higher than $76.95 a share, with the company reporting weak sales.