CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Kellogg Co. President-CEO David Mackay abruptly announced his retirement today, handing the reigns of the struggling cereal giant to a company insider who is expected to continue the company's new focus on innovation.
John Bryant, chief operating officer since 2008, will take over on Jan. 2.
"The company didn't really telegraph anything to indicate that Mackay was considering retirement," said Matt Arnold, an Edward Jones analyst. "Obviously, he had a pretty challenging year and that probably had something to do with his decision."
Kellogg, the nation's largest cereal maker, has been losing share to No. 2 General Mills and earlier this year lowered profit forecasts, citing competitive pressure and lingering impact from last summer's recall of some cereal brands because of odd smells.
Kellogg hopes to recover by putting a stronger focus on innovation, including the introduction of Crunchy Nut cereal early next year, a sweet-tasting brand that has long been sold in the U.K. Mr. Bryant endorsed the approach on a recent earnings call, telling analysts that innovation "brings people back into the category."
"What makes us excited about our 2011 program is we're taking some of the best ideas that have worked around the world and bringing those ideas to the U.S. for the cereal category," he said. "And that we feel very confident in that program."
Mr. Bryant, 45, was born in Australia. He joined Kellogg in 1998, working with units in Australia and Europe in support of global strategic planning. He had two separate stints as chief financial officer and is a member of the company's global leadership team.
Mr. Bryant "understands the dynamics and what's going on," said Morningstar analyst Erin Swanson. "Even though [he's] not someone from outside the company, it seems like a logical choice."
Mr. Mackay, 55, also grew up in Australia. Kellogg named him president in 2003 and CEO in 2006. "This past summer I became eligible to retire and made a commitment to spend more time with my family," he said in a statement.