MINNEAPOLIS — John Foraker is stepping down from his role as president of the Annie’s operating unit of General Mills, Inc., to pursue another opportunity, he announced in an Aug. 3 blog posting. He said he will remain with the company, working closely with the North American leadership team and as an adviser to the Annie’s operating unit. Carla Vernon, currently vice-president, Natural & Organic Growth Acceleration at General Mills, has been named as his successor.
After 18 years with Annie’s, which General Mills acquired in 2014, Mr. Foraker named two reasons for his departure. For one, the integration of the Annie’s business into the parent company is 100% complete, he wrote.
“When we decided to sell Annie’s to General Mills in 2014, I was asked to stay for one year,” he wrote. “I’m not sure anyone wanted me around longer than that … and if you’d asked me then I’d have said no way I’d be there longer. But in my head I knew that I’d never willingly leave until I felt that the business and culture of Annie’s were strong enough post acquisition that they could self-sustain for the long term inside General Mills. The track record of big C.P.G. in this area has been spotty, yet the Annie’s acquisition has been wildly successful. Facing consumer and industry backlash after the announcement of the Mills deal, I said ‘listen to what we say, but more importantly, watch what we do.' We’ve delivered on that promise.”
He added, “I’m an entrepreneur at heart and I was never cut out to do the big corporate thing for the long term. I’m too impatient and too rough around the edges. I’ve seen many opportunities come around over the past 3 years and never considered any of them for more than a few minutes. I was having too much fun and the business was not ready as stated above. But recently I came onto a unique start-up opportunity that is exciting and terrifying at the same time, and that I cannot pass up.”
Mr. Foraker said he will be developing a new enterprise located in the San Francisco Bay area that “I intend to grow big and fast into a highly disruptive force in the organic food space. I cannot reveal the details today but you’ll certainly hear about it soon.”
He emphasized that his departure is unrelated to the company’s, and the packaged food industry’s, recent struggles.“I am very confident in the leadership of General Mills,” he said. “Jeff Harmening will be a bold c.e.o. and will do what it takes to win. I have no doubt about that. I’ll always be thankful to him for having the guts to buy Annie’s and to allow us to preserve and propagate our core DNA across the enterprise in the way we have done. He allowed us to be ourselves without compromise. I am confident in his ability to steer the choppy waters in order to bring the company back to global leadership. It will happen, mark my words.”