Dutch food group Numico has announced that it is to restructure its US operations after a difficult year affected by a downturn in supplement sales. Some 600 jobs are likely to be lost as a result of the changes, which will affect all three Numico operations in the US - General Nutrition Centers (GNC), Rexall Sundown and Unicity.
Hans van der Wielen, president and chief executive officer of Numico, said he was pleased with the overall position of the company, but added that the changes to the US structure would lead to further improvements.
"In the USA, we experienced a more difficult environment with a weak performance at Rexall Sundown," he said. "We are addressing the issues in the USA, have new management in place and are working hard to leverage our research expertise to capture the benefits of our unique market position."
Changes to the US operations include: the appointment of Peter van Wel as head of the US operations, replacing former GNC chief Greg Horn; cutting $40 million in annual expenses and reducing the workforce by 600; increasing marketing efforts for key brands; and reorganising product development.
Van der Wielen also said he would retire in May and that Jan Bennink, formerly head of Groupe Danone's dairy unit, would be his successor.
Numico released preliminary fiscal 2001 figures in January, including plans to write down more than $350 million (€400m) in goodwill and brands for Rexall Sundown, although the actual figure has now been confirmed at more then $363 million.
Final figures for 2001 show that the Dutch group posted sales of $2.3 billion from continuing US operations, up 18 per cent. Rexall Sundown's sales were down 9 per cent in 2001 to $526 million, and the impact of this poor performance was felt on the stock market, with Numico's shares 2001 dropping from $47 to $23.
GNC was the best performer for Numico in the US, with sales ahead 2 per cent to $1.4 billion. Unicity, an online/multi-level marketing organisation formed from the merger of Rexall Showcase International and Enrich International, posted sales of $306 million, a 7 per cent decline from the previous year. Numico said the decline was caused by a lack of consumer interest in the US vitamins market.