Hormel Foods Corp. CEO Jeffrey Ettinger will retire, the company said Tuesday, ending a decadelong tenure in which he adapted the food maker to shifting consumer tastes, nearly doubling its sales and more than quadrupling its market value.
The board of directors voted to promote James Snee, its president and chief operating officer, to succeed him. The transition will occur at the end of October, when Hormel finishes its fiscal year. Ettinger will remain chairman of the board.
Ettinger spent 27 years at the Austin, Minn.-based company, reaching the top office in 2006.
"It has been an honor to lead this great company alongside our dedicated employees around the world," Ettinger said in a statement. "As Jim takes the helm, I am confident that Hormel Foods will continue its growth trajectory as he and the team build on our strong foundation of success."
Since Ettinger took the reins, Hormel's stock has increased from $8 a share to more than $40 a share. Hormel shares closed at $38.65 Tuesday. The company's revenue has grown above $9 billion from around $5 billion a decade ago.
Hormel, maker of Spam, Jennie-O turkey and other meat products, has capitalized on Americans' increasing appetite for protein through its legacy products, as well as acquisition of popular brands like Skippy peanut butter, Muscle Milk drinks, Wholly Guacamole, Applegate meats and Justin's Nut Butters.
"Jeff has expertly piloted the company to significant growth and success during his tenure, leading a talented management team in the delivery of strong and consistent returns to Hormel Foods shareholders," said John Morrison, the board's lead director. "Under his leadership, the company added to an outstanding portfolio of brands through numerous strategic acquisitions."
In August, Hormel reported its 13th consecutive quarter of record earnings — $195.7 million, or 36 cents per share, for the quarter ending in July.
Before his role as CEO, Ettinger worked a variety of jobs at Hormel, including senior attorney, product manager for the company's chili products, president of Jennie-O Turkey Store, treasurer and president.
He currently serves on the boards of the Toro Company, Ecolab Inc., North American Meat Institute, Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Hormel Foundation, the Hormel Institute and the Minnesota Business Partnership.
Ettinger has won several awards, such as being named among the 30 world's best CEOs by Barron's this year and, in 2012, he was named Responsible CEO of the Year by Corporate Responsibility magazine, an award given to leaders who "visibly exceed standards in the areas of employee relations, environmental impact, human rights, philanthropy and corporate responsibility practices."
The succession plan was set into motion one year ago when Snee was appointed president, a role previously held by Ettinger in addition to his title of chief executive.
Snee and Ettinger joined Hormel in 1989. Snee has worked his way up through the ranks, holding positions ranging from food service regional sales manager, director of purchasing and senior vice president of Hormel Foods International Corp.
"It has been a pleasure to work directly with Jeff over the past year, and I look forward to leading the company with this legacy of excellence," Snee said in a statement. "I am certain we are well positioned for future success in the years to come."