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Fonterra announces new big cheese

Fonterra announces new big cheese
Dutch dairy executive Theo Spierings has been named the new chief executive of Fonterra Cooperative Group.

Dutch dairy executive Theo Spierings has been named the new chief executive of Fonterra Cooperative Group.

The Dutchman beat out internal candidates to run the world’s biggest exporter of dairy products, replacing Canadian Andrew Ferrier on September 26.

But it’s not just the ubiquitious link between Dutchmen and cheese that makes Spierings a good choice. The 46-year-old led Dutch dairy cooperative Royal Friesland Foods in its 2008 merger with Campina. He boasts 25 years' experience in the dairy industry.

Fonterra chairman Henry van der Heyden says, “Mr Spierings has a wealth of experience in managing dairy businesses across Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.”

He also has experience in a variety of general management, operations and supply chain and sales and marketing positions, says van der Heyden.

Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson, says Spierings' background made him a good choice for the appointment.

He says Ferrier has done a "magnificent job" and Federated Farmers is "relieved" that his successor brings a wealth of experience to the table.

“Mr Spierings understands the psyche and drivers of farmers and the advantages of the cooperative ownership model."

Spierings, who left Royal Friesland shortly after the merger, currently owns an advisory firm in the Netherlands, focusing on corporate strategy, mergers and acquisitions in the consumer goods sector.

"What makes Fonterra really unique is its combination of low-cost pasture based farming and its status as the world’s largest milk processor," he says.

“The challenge ahead was to add another layer of value across the business.”

Ferrier will announce Fonterra’s 2011 results before handing over to Spierings. Van der Heyden says the cooperative will report “a record financial year”.