How a Chocolate CEO is Breaking His Father’s Mold

Attempt to evolve or stick with a longstanding and meticulously honed formula? It's an obvious question confronting many CEOs, but one that takes on an extra personal significance for leaders succeeding close relatives.

Ferraro chocolateSuch is the case for Giovanni Ferrero, the CEO of Italian chocolate giant Ferrero International SA, best known for its Nutella spread, Tic Tac candies and Kinder chocolate eggs.

Mr. Ferrero became the outright CEO of the company in 2011 after brother and co-CEO Pietro died in an accident. The pair were promoted in 1997 when father Michele formally stood down – although he remained active in managing the business until his death in 2015.

In an analysis of his management style, The Wall Street Journal reports that Giovanni Ferrero certainly hasn’t rested on his father’s legacy. To the contrary, the report claims he’s brought a new vitality to the business and increased the pace of change. Recent initiatives included halving the time to launch new products, acquiring U.K. chocolate maker Thorntons and hiring managers from overseas.

“Tradition is like a bow,“ Mr. Ferrero told WSJ. ”The more we stretch the bowstring, the farther we can throw the arrows of modernity and innovation.”

His approach appears to be working: Ferrero posted 13% sales growth for the year ended August 31, 2015, even as the rest of the confectionery industry struggles to post any growth at all.

Ferrero wants to double its revenue over the coming decade, partly by selling more products outside Europe.

The U.S. is currently a small market for the company – but the potential lies in Mr. Ferrro convincing more American that Nutella is an attractive alternative to peanut butter.


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