Aviko Names Ton Christiaanse CEO; Says Bye to Snow Valley

Anthony “Ton” Christiaanse is getting back into the frozen and chilled potato business after a 12-year hiatus. He is scheduled to assume the position of chief executive officer of Steenderen, Holland-headquartered Aviko BV on January 1, succeeding Piet Hein Merckens.

Anthony Ton ChristiaanseAnthony "Ton" ChristiaanseAviko’s incoming chief executive officer served as ceo of Farm Frites, a major value-added potato product specialist based near Rotterdam, from 2002-06. Since then the 56-year-old food industry veteran has been engaged in numerous executive roles, most recently as ceo/owner of Hawking Capital and chairman of A K Stoddart, a Scottish beef processing company.

Prior to that, Christiaanse served as ceo of the Brakes Group in the UK from 2016-17, and was a member of the executive board of the Vion Food Group from 2007-12 – first in the capacity as chief operating officer of its convenience division and later as ceo of Grampian. He has also held management positions at Sara Lee, Unilever and Chiquita.

aviko friesRanked as the fourth largest value-added potato products company in the world, Aviko annually processes approximately 1,700,000 tons of spuds at plants in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Poland, Sweden and China. In addition to french fries, wedges, gratins and other potato-based items, it offers a variety of frozen appetizers including onion rings, mozzarella fingers, chili cheddar cheese nuggets and jalapeño snacks. Its customer base consists of retailers and industrial accounts as well as foodservice operators.

‘Difference of Insight’

According to a statement issued by Aviko parent company Royal Cosun, Merckens is being replaced after relinquishing the helm because “differences of insight with the board of directors about the execution of Aviko’s strategic planning have resulted in a mutual decision to move on separately.”

He will remain on board for perhaps a few months, however, to finish a number of projects and prepare for a smooth handover of responsibilities, once succession has been completed.

Piet Hein MerckensPiet Hein MerckensMerckens became chief executive officer of Aviko in 2014. Prior to that he held positions as ceo of Royal Wessanen and president at Douwe Egberts/Sara Lee. He started his career at Procter & Gamble.

“Aviko is a wonderful company with talented and engaged people, great brand activation and an excellent growth potential. With the right focus, an integrated mindset and joint efforts by all, it has a prosperous future ahead,” said Merckens.

“We would like to thank Piet Hein Merckens for his many contributions to Aviko’s success. During his tenure the company experienced significant performance increase, while the organization was further professionalized and prepared for future growth,” said Albert Markusse, Royal Cosun’s chief executive officer.

Farewell Snow Valley

snowvalleyIn other news, Aviko will soon pull out of a joint venture with Snow Valley Agriculture in China. It has held a 51% majority stake in the enterprise, which produces frozen french fries and other products, since 2014. A new potato processing facility in Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province, with annual production capacity of 150,000 tons, was scheduled for completion this fall.

“Both partners concluded that their views on the growth in the Chinese market differ to such an extent that there is too little basis to continue successfully together,” explained Royal Cosun in an official statement.

Termination of the agreement requires approval from Chinese authorities, which is expected to occur by the end of this year. Meanwhile, the Dutch company will continue to do business in the PRC.

The Royal Cosun statement concluded: “Aviko will pursue its growth ambition in China on the basis of alternative sourcing lines.”