CHICAGO — Kraft Foods Inc. named Irene Rosenfeld as its chief executive Monday, replacing Roger Deromedi after a long period of sluggish results at the nation's largest food company.
Rosenfeld most recently was chairwoman and CEO of Frito-Lay, a division of PepsiCo.
Deromedi, a 28-year veteran of Kraft, had been sole CEO of the company since December 2003. He previously was co-CEO with Betsy Holden, who subsequently was removed and put in charge of global marketing.
The company said Deromedi mutually agreed with the board to leave to pursue other interests.
Deromedi had been under fire after an extensive restructuring failed to produce the stronger sales and profit Wall Street expected.
The company, maker of Kraft cheese, Oreo cookies and DiGiorno pizza, is expected to be spun off soon by majority owner Altria Group Inc. Kraft Chairman Louis Camilleri, who also is Altria's CEO, indicated the CEO change was related to that impending action.
"While the fundamentals of the business continue to improve, we are confident that Irene will accelerate the execution of Kraft's growth strategy, build value for shareholders and lead Kraft when it becomes a fully independent company," he said.
Rosenfeld spent more than 20 years with Kraft and General Foods before joining Frito-Lay in 2004. She departed Kraft in July 2003 as president of Kraft Foods North America, one of several key executives to leave as the company's struggles deepened.
The company credited her with leading the integration of the $19-billion Nabisco acquisition in 2000 and the restructuring and turnaround of several key businesses.
Camilleri said Deromedi charted a course for growth that would benefit Kraft for years to come. But Deromedi's ouster had been increasingly expected as the company failed to pull out of its slump.
The world's No. 2 food company, behind Switzerland's Nestle, has closed at least 19 plants and eliminated thousands of jobs since 2004 as part of a companywide overhaul.
Shares of Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft rose 6 cents to $31.