JAB Holdings is preparing to appoint a new chief executive to its €19bn coffee business, as freshly listed JDE Peet’s grapples with shifts in consumer drinking patterns triggered by the pandemic.

Fabien Simon, currently a partner and chief financial officer at JAB, will take over as chief executive after pushing ahead with the company’s IPO in May, Europe’s largest this year, despite the chill cast over markets by coronavirus.

The appointment of Mr Simon, a French national and judo enthusiast, is set to be announced on Friday and will be effective from Monday, according to people briefed on the situation.

The former Mars executive takes on the role as previous chief executive Casey Keller steps down following less than a year in the post, as the pandemic disrupted Mr Keller’s plans to move his family from the US to Amsterdam.

JDE Peet’s, whose brands of beans and capsules include Jacobs, Douwe Egberts, Kenco, L’Or and Tassimo, is seeking to rival Nestlé as a global roaster of coffee to drink at home.

The Amsterdam-based group has been assembled by Luxembourg-based JAB — which manages the wealth of Germany’s Reimann family, along with outside investors — over almost a decade, in a key plank of the strategy of JAB managing partner Olivier Goudet.

The IPO in May on the Euronext exchange raised €2.6bn, while shares closed on Thursday at €36.40, some 15.6 per cent above their issue price.

Mr Simon opted to push ahead with the float despite the uncertainty created by the coronavirus, arguing that global conditions might not stabilise for some time, according to people familiar with the situation.

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JDE Peet’s aims to profit from what it believes is a long-term trend of consumers trading up to more expensive coffee and tea brands at home, while it also expands in markets such as China.

But it has faced a knock during the pandemic from a steep fall in consumers drinking coffee at venues such as cafés and bars, which account for about a quarter of its business. 

Overall sales declined 1.1 per cent in the first half of 2020 to €3.2bn, dragged down by a drop of almost 30 per cent in sales of coffee outside the home. JDE Peet’s said last month that these businesses had seen a “good recovery” from June.

Mr Simon served as chief financial officer of JDE Peet’s from 2014 to 2019 and oversaw the integration of the Douwe Egberts brand with the coffee business of US food group Mondelez. Before that he spent 14 years at Mars.

He will step down from his other JAB roles, including positions on the boards of group companies Keurig Dr Pepper and Krispy Kreme.

Via Financial Times