John J. Harris is hoping to increase NestlÈ’s share of the multibillion-dollar bottled water industry. The former CEO of NestlÈ Purina Europe was recently named CEO of NestlÈ Waters, where he will oversee a $1 billion budget and some 32,000 employees worldwide. He succeeds Carlo Donati, who plans to retire. Harris remains the executive vice president of NestlÈ S.A. and his office is Paris based.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to work in a dynamic growth category,” Harris says. “Water will become more important in the future as we look at ways to combat the growing obesity problem, especially among young people.”
Harris was appointed CEO of NestlÈ Purina Europe in August 2002. In 2005, he assumed additional responsibility for NestlÈ Purina in Asia, Oceania, and Africa. His tenure at the helm of these NestlÈ Purina operations was marked by strong innovation and renovation and by the creation of a successful high-performance supply chain.
Andrew Wood, senior analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. L.L.C., notes that “NestlÈ remains the strongest and most balanced company in the European food group, both strategically and operationally. We expect strong operating performance in 2007, 2008, and beyond.”
NestlÈ stock is at an all-time high at $455, up from $372 last year, in part because of the success of the NestlÈ Waters division. In North America, the Pure Life water brand saw sales jump more than 10% to reach $4.8 billion.
Harris says he plans to continue with the growth pattern of the NestlÈ Waters unit, which includes North American brands such as Poland Spring and Arrowhead. “We are focused on good hydration and overall good-for-you products. That is a segment that is fair game for us to go after.”