Utz names next CEO 

Dylan Lissette, left, is handing the reins of Utz Brands to food industry vet Howard Friedman. (photos/submitted)

After steering one of the region’s largest private companies onto the public market, Utz Brands CEO Dylan Lissette is stepping into a new role.

  • After 27 years with the Hanover-based snack maker, Lissette will become executive chairman of the company’s board on Dec.15.
  • Utz’s new CEO will be Howard Friedman, currently COO of St. Louis-based Post Holdings, a consumer-packaged goods company whose brands include Bob Evans, Peter Pan and Ronzoni.
  • Friedman also will join the company’s board.
  • “Howard brings extensive experience increasing market share and unlocking growth potential, with a focus on building innovative brands and strategic business development,” Lissette said in a statement. “The board and I are confident that he will help lead Utz to tremendous success as we grow our presence across geographies, salty snack sub-categories, and channels.”

Are there any firsts: Yes.

  • Friedman will be the first CEO from outside the families that have led Utz since its founding by William and Salie Utz in 1921, according to Utz spokesperson Kevin Brick.
  • Lissette is a son-in-law of past CEO Mike Rice, whose father, Francis, married Arlene Utz, a daughter of William and Salie. 
  • Francis led the company after the death of William Utz in 1968. Mike Rice became CEO in 1978.

Why is this happening: In a press release, Utz said a leadership transition has been on the agenda since the company went public through a 2020 merger with Collier Creek Holdings, a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. SPACs look for privately held businesses to take public.

  • Utz evaluated internal and external candidates before settling on Friedman, who has more than 25 years of experience in the food and beverage sector,
  • “I see enormous potential to continue Utz’s exciting journey,” Friedman said in a statement. “I am confident that, with such a values-driven, passionate organization, and a portfolio of iconic snacks beloved by families across the U.S., Utz is just getting started.”
  • Utz’s current board chair, Roger Deromedi, will become the company’s lead independent director.
  • By first quarter 2023, Lissette will shift into the role of non-executive board chairman.

The background: Lissette joined Utz in 1995 and became CEO in 2013, several years after the company backed out of a proposed merger wth hometown rival Snyder’s of Hanover.

  • He led Utz through a period of significant growth, fueled, in part, by acquiring smaller snack makers.
  • Utz now has more than $1.3 billion in annual sales and a national presence as the third-largest salty snack platform in the U.S. It employs more than 3,500 people.
  • Snyder’s is now part of the snack division at New Jersey-based Campbell Soup.

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