Hershey CFO to Retire Next Year

Patricia Little helped cut costs, but the company faces changing consumer tastes.
William SprouseAugust 20, 2018

The chief financial officer of The Hershey Co., Patricia Little, will be leaving the company to retire in the spring of 2019, Hershey announced Thursday. Little joined as finance chief in March 2015.

“Patricia has been instrumental in helping create a more profitable and sustainable international business model,” Hershey Chief Executive Officer Michele Buck stated.

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Little joined Hershey from Kelly Services, the workforce-solutions provider. Prior to that she had been general auditor at Ford Motor Company. She is an independent director and audit committee chair of spicemaker McCormick.

At Hershey, Little oversaw a cost-cutting program that aimed to save between $150 million and $175 million by the end of 2019. The program also had a target of improving productivity by $300 million.

Hershey CFO photo

Patricia Little, Hershey CFO

But Hershey is facing rising input costs, including higher wages and higher delivery costs in the United States, according to Fintan Ryan, an analyst at Berenberg, Gossler & Co. KG.

In July, the company announced it would raise prices 2.5% on average.

“Consumers are changing and the market is changing,” John Baumgartner, an analyst at Wells Fargo & Co, told CFO Journal. “This is more a marketing and a product-development problem, less so a finance problem,” he said.

Ryan said a new CFO with control over spending on marketing and product development would be crucial. “They need to do something to sustainably accelerate sales growth,” he said.

The company projects that adjusted operating profit margins will rise to 22% or 23% in 2019, compared with 20.7% in 2017.

It also reaffirmed its full-year 2018 guidance as outlined in its second quarter 2018 earnings announcement.

“After more than a decade as a CFO for two public companies, I am looking forward to a more relaxed lifestyle,” Little said. “Hershey is a wonderful company with a great future ahead of it.”

The company is conducting a search for Little’s successor.