As part of an operational improvement plan launched in August 2022, Secaucus-based refrigerated pet food maker Freshpet Inc. is planning some changes to its leadership.
In a May 17 press release, the company said Walter George, chair of the nominating, governance and sustainability committee, will be appointed as its new independent board chair, effective following its annual shareholder meeting in July.
A member of Freshpet’s board since 2014, George’s professional background includes serving as vice president of supply chain at pet food manufacturer Hill’s Pet Nutrition and as president of American Italian Pasta Co.
Additionally, David Biegger, former executive vice president chief supply chain officer for leading food and beverage services company Conagra Brands, has been appointed to the board and will serve on the audit committee.
Biegger brings over 40 years of experience in the consumer package goods industry to the role. Currently, he is an operating partner at Shore Capital Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm specializing in investments across food & beverage, health care and business services sectors.
Previously, Biegger worked at Campbell Soup Co. as head of global supply chain, and at Procter & Gamble in manufacturing and operations.
Founded in 2006, Freshpet manufactures, markets and distributes fresh, natural pet food and pet treats that are made from fresh meats, vegetables and fruits and are free of preservatives, additives and artificial ingredients.
After initiating a turnaround plan last summer aimed at improving logistics, commodities and quality, Freshpet made a flurry of changes to its leadership, including the appointment of Todd Cunfer as chief financial officer; Jay Dahlgren as executive vice president of manufacturing, technology, and supply chain; and Dirk Martin as vice president of customer service & logistics.
“As Freshpet builds upon the strong operational improvements we have made over the past year, ensuring that our board has the skills and expertise to oversee the strategy and execution of the business is paramount,” said George. “We are thrilled to welcome Dave, a seasoned supply chain and operations leader with deep domain knowledge and a clear understanding of the complexities of the CPG industry. His guidance and oversight will prove invaluable as we advance plans to deliver margin improvements and drive profitability to enhance shareholder value.”
Biegger said, “I am thrilled to join Freshpet’s Board. I have followed the company’s progress for years and believe that it is a true innovator in a rapidly growing industry. Consumers love Freshpet’s products and uncompromising quality, and as a result, the business has delivered outstanding growth for over a decade. Looking ahead, I see a significant opportunity to build on this momentum and continue to enhance growth and profitability to support the company’s success.”
Freshpet also said Chair Charles Norris won’t stand for reelection at the meeting as part of the company’s director retirement policy.
Norris said, “I’m proud of the business Freshpet has become. We have quickly transitioned from a market disruptor to an effective operator, innovator, and category leader. I’m confident that the Board is in the right hands with Walt as chair.”
“Walt brings over 30 years of manufacturing and supply chain leadership experience, including senior positions in the pet food industry and expertise in scaling multiple high-growth consumer product companies,” he said.
While Freshpet attempts to execute a turnaround, it has come under scrutiny from Jana Partners LLC, a New York-headquartered activist investing firm that holds a nearly 10% stake in the company.
Jana Partners has previously called on Freshpet to consider operational changes and improve how it allocates capital, in addition to exploring a sale to other players within the pet food category. It also indicated in a December 2022 regulatory filing it intends to launch a proxy fight with the company and seek board seats at Freshpet’s annual meeting in July.