December 7, 2023

SunOpta names former Calavo leader new CEO

Plant-based food and beverage company SunOpta Inc. has named Brian Kocher, former head of avocado grower and ready-to-eat provider Calavo Growers, as its new CEO.

Kocher will succeed Joseph Ennen, retiring after five years as SunOpta CEO and director of the company’s board.

Kocher’s appointment will be effective Jan. 2, 2024, according to a news release. Kocher will also become a board member.

Kocher served as CEO and president of Calavo from January 2022 to February 2023. Prior to that, he held positions as president and CEO of Castellini Group of Companies, a nationwide produce distribution organization, as well as interim CEO of Chiquita.

“On behalf of the entire board, I want to thank Joe for his invaluable leadership of SunOpta over the past five years,” Dean Hollis, SunOpta board chair, said in the release. “Joe’s vision and tireless commitment to the success of the company led to a complete portfolio transformation and solidified our balance sheet, strengthening SunOpta’s competitive position and creating a powerful foundation to support an even brighter future. It has been a privilege to work with Joe and we wish him the absolute best in his retirement.”

Before joining Calavo, Kocher served as president and CEO of Castellini Group of Companies from May 2015 to January 2022 and spent 10 years at Chiquita Brands International Inc. His positions there included interim CEO; executive vice president and chief operating officer; and senior vice president and chief financial officer.

“I am thrilled to serve as SunOpta’s next CEO and would like to thank Joe and the board for entrusting me to lead the company as we enter this new chapter,” Kocher said in the release. “Joe has set a strong foundation for SunOpta’s growth and success, and I’m excited to continue this momentum by working toward our collective mission of fueling the future of food.”

Ennen will continue as an advisor to the board and Kocher until April 1, 2024, according to the release.

“It has been an honor to serve as CEO of SunOpta during this period of transformative growth and I especially want to thank the SunOpta team for their passion, hard work and dedication,” Ennen said in the release. “I believe the company is well-positioned for its next phase of growth … I look forward to working closely with Brian during this transition and I have the utmost confidence that his leadership will inspire the continued growth and mission of SunOpta.”

Founded in 1973, Minnesota-headquartered SunOpta manufactures natural, organic and specialty products sold through retail and foodservice channels.

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