Cargill Inc. announced a major reshuffling of its top executives Thursday following the appointment of a new chief operating officer who appears poised to become the future CEO.

Brian Sikes, who has led the company's global protein and salt enterprise for the past two years, was recently appointed chief operating officer.

He is the first person to take that role since Dave MacLennan, Cargill's current chief executive, left it in 2013. And previous people in that role have been considered likely to become the top leader at the Minnetonka-based firm, one of the world's largest companies in food and agriculture.

"Brian is always thinking about our customers and innovative solutions that will exceed their expectations today and in the future," MacLennan said. "Equally so, he's a people-first leader, with an unwavering commitment to health and safety, and builds diverse, inclusive teams that deliver strong results."

With Sikes' ascension and the retirement of Frank van Lierde from leader of the company's food and bio-industrial unit, Cargill is shifting roles in its executive team and expanding it from 11 to 12 people on April 1.

Cargill is creating a stand-alone chief sustainability officer role for the first time in its century-and-a-half history. Pilar Cruz will fill the new position, becoming the first Latina ever named to Cargill's executive team. Cruz now leads the company's global aqua nutrition business.

Ruth Kimmelshue, who's existing role covers business operations, supply chain and chief sustainability officer, will move over to lead Cargill's emerging animal nutrition and health enterprise. She remains a member of the executive team.

Julian Chase, chief transformation officer, will add business operations and supply chain to his responsibilities.

Jon Nash succeeds Sikes as head of global protein and salt enterprise and joins the executive team. Since 2019, he has led the North American protein business.

David Webster, who leads the animal nutrition and health enterprise, will lead the food ingredients and bioindustrial business upon Van Lierde's retirement.

"As we accelerate our growth strategy into specialties and value-add spaces, I'm confident this is the team to lead Cargill forward," MacLennan said.

Kristen Leigh Painter • 612-673-4767