(5351)#foodfodie | Diageo names Debra Crew as North American president

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Despite having worked with Diageo for barely a year, Crew brings valuable experience in the CPG space to the role. Crew served three years at RJ Reynolds, including the last 12 months as CEO. During her tenure, she worked with cigarettes as they have have fallen out of favor with consumers and watched the expansion of e-cigarettes and vapes in the market place.  

In addition to experience in maintaining market relevance of brands in an unfavorable industry, Crew also has experience working in beverages from her time at PepsiCo. This combination of practical knowledge from the two sectors will benefit Diageo as the company looks to cater to consumers.  

But Diageo is not the only alcohol company to shuffle leadership recently. Molson Coors named Gavin Hattersley CEO last September following slipping sales. At Pernod Ricard, there was a similar changing of the guard as Paul Duffy, CEO of North America, handed the reins to Ann Mukherjee last year. At Constellation Brands, Bill Newlands also became global CEO last year. 

These recent upheavals indicate these legacy companies are looking for innovation through leadership to turn around their financial futures amid a changing consumer environment. U.S. consumers have been drinking less beer each of the last five consecutive years, and U.S. wine consumption decreased in 2019 for the first time in 25 years. Alcohol volumes overall have fallen as well.

Diageo is working to combat these new market realities by investing in nascent brands that deliver on consumer trends, such as the nonalcoholic spirits brand Seedlip. The company also launched Guinness Open Gate Pure Brew nonalcoholic beer in 2018 and introduced two ultra low alcohol pre-mixed drinks under its Gordon's label as an option for consumers who decide to moderate their alcohol intake.

Crew will be no stranger to redefining a product portfolio in a legacy industry, but the timing of the change is less than optimal. She is taking over following the $5 million SEC settlement and as the spread of COVID-19 upends the U.S. and global economies.

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