Pierre van Heerden has announced he will step down as head of Sanitarium NZ in December, after having led the company since April 2007. Van Heerden started with Sanitarium in Australia exactly 20 years ago, before relocating to New Zealand. He has also been chairman of the Food and Grocery Council, and has been part of the Front of Pack Labelling advisory group, the Health Star Rating advisory group, and the Food and Beverage Industry Information project, to name a few.
Van Heerden said it had been a difficult decision to make, but it was time to explore new challenges within the food industry.
"It has been a privilege to lead Sanitarium in New Zealand over the past ten years, and I will miss the camaraderie and great sense of humour of my team," he said. “During my time leading Sanitarium, we have had some great achievements as a company. A big focus has been on team development and culture, and we have reached a point where I am confident that such a strong team will continue to deliver.”
While there are no precise plans ahead, Van Heerden said he was looking forward to pursuing some his personal passions such as “exploring the world, making a difference in international trade, learning new things and finding the best cappuccino in the world.”
Sanitarium’s global CEO, Kevin Jackson, praised van Heerden’s contribution to the company’s growth. “His accomplishments are well-known and recognised in the community and industry. We certainly wish him well as he turns to new opportunities.”
The New Zealand Food and Grocery Council has paid tribute to van Heerden as well. "It's impossible to calculate the number of hours he devoted to working on issues with me, the Board, and members personally or on their behalf. His advice and counsel were invaluable, especially to many of our smaller food businesses," said Katherine Rich, FGC's chief executive. She mentioned van Heerden's leadership during the Christchurch earthquakes when he personally helped distribute some of the 1,000 pallets of food and supplies donated by member companies.