STAMFORD, Conn. -- Nestle Waters North America named a new chief executive officer this week following the abrupt departure of Tim Brown, who left the lead-executive role to become chief operating officer of Greek yogurt company Chobani.
Fernando Merce, former CEO of Nestle Purina Latin America & Caribbean, will take over as president and CEO of the bottled-water and iced-tea company effective May 1.
Merce will oversee all Nestle Waters North America’s operations in both the United States and Canada. He will also serve as a member of the global Nestle Waters board of directors.
“I am delighted that Fernando will be leading Nestle Waters North America as it begins an exciting new chapter,” said Maurizio Patarnello, chairman and chief executive officer of Paris-based Nestle Waters. “His proven leadership, passion for innovation and deep commitment to creating a learning culture will enrich our strong [North American] teams and ensure that we build on our growth legacy to retain our leadership position in the category.”
At Nestle Purina Latin America & Caribbean, Merce presided over a sustained period of strong results, including double-digit increases in organic growth, profitability and market share, all while introducing key innovations to the pet-care category, the company said.
“Today, we are at an inflection point in the North American consumer beverage category, and I’m looking forward to becoming a part of it,” said Merce. “Following a shift over many years, bottled water is now America’s number one beverage choice, displacing carbonated soft drinks. As this migration continues, we are well-positioned to expand in the United States and Canada with leading brands that are poised for strong growth.”
Brown worked for Nestle Waters North America since 1988 and became CEO in 2013. He left the company March 3 to join Chobani, which recently entered the beverage business with its Drink Chobani line.
“Joining a company like Chobani to partner with someone like (founder and CEO) Hamdi (Ulukaya) and this great team is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Brown said in a statement. “I’ve been following Chobani for years, as they have changed the food landscape in this country. I’m thrilled and honored to be coming aboard at a time of such momentum and incredible potential.”
Stamford, Conn.-based Nestle Waters North America produces bottled-water brands such as Poland Spring, Nestle Pure Life, Perrier and San Pellegrino, among others, as well as Nestea and Sweet Leaf iced teas.