Cott Corp. has named an interim CEO, following the departure of Brent Willis, and has initiated a search for a permanent candidate to fill the position.

The board of directors at the Canada-based soft drinks company said yesterday (24 March) that it has appointed David Gibbons, who has held a position on Cott's board for the past year and has previously held the role of chairman, president and CEO of the pharmaceutical company Perrigo.

Gibbons said: "The board has asked me to stay committed to the company's existing strategy, which calls for continued focus on our core retailer-branded CSD business while pursuing new products and channels that reflect the changing consumer landscape. Over the past two years we've streamlined our manufacturing operations and invested in noncarbonated beverages. I plan to continue those programs while redoubling our efforts to ensure the success of our retail partners in maximising the profitability of their beverage category sales."

Cott chairman Frank Weise added: "Dave is a very seasoned business leader. His knowledge of private label and relationships with our customers will be invaluable. The internal challenges that we have experienced in no way negate our strategy, our industry position, or our potential for growth and success."

The board added that it would like to acknowledge Brent Willis's "diligent efforts and strategic contribution" during the company's "challenging time".

Cott confirmed last month that it is facing the threat of "significant" space re-allocation for its retailer brand soft drinks at US retail behemoth Wal-Mart. The troubled company has received notice of a reduction in shelf space and merchandising support for Wal-Mart's private label carbonated soft drinks in the US, including Sam's Choice, which would be "significant to Cott's business plans", the company said.

Cott recently posted a leap in full-year net loss for 2007, coming in at US$73.1m from losses of $17.5m in 2006. The losses came despite flat sales last year of $1.78bn from $1.77bn the year previous.