Pekka Kuusniemi, the CEO of Finland-based food group Raisio, has announced he will be leaving the Elovena owner in June.

In a statement, Kuusniemi described his experience at the company as “very interesting and the times very challenging”.

Kuusniemi added he felt it was “the right time… to look at future opportunities, because I can leave the company in a strong state and ready to grow”.

“The current financial year is my seventeenth at the head of an international industrial company,” he added.

“I am very confident that my experience will continue to be useful. I warmly thank the board, the management team and the entire staff and wish them continued success.”

Just Food has asked Kuusniemi to provide more details on his next steps.

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He had been working at the Benecol owner since 2017, having come from an executive position at Finnish bathroom and kitchen supplier Oras Group.

Raisio has already started its search for a new CEO to lead the company, it said.

Commenting on Kuusniemi’s departure, Raisio chairman Arto Tiitinen said: “During his term as CEO, Pekka Kuusniemi has built a solid foundation for the company based on purpose and values.

“He has successfully led the company through the pandemic period, the challenges caused by the Russian war of aggression for the company, and restored profitability despite high inflation. I wish him the best of success in the future.”

Raisio lost approximately 20% of its net sales in 2022 following its suspension of export activities to Russia as a result of the conflict in Ukraine.

Kuusniemi’s exit comes a day after the company released its latest fiscal results for 2023 and announced it would abandon its 2022-2025 growth targets.

Raisio’s net sales plateaued year-on-year in 2023, reaching €220m ($235.4m), a drop of 0.6% on 2022.

EBIT for the 12 months was up 6.8% at €19.1m but saw an annual decline of 47.6% in the three months ended December, at €3.1m.

In a statement accompanying the results, Kuusniemi described the likelihood of hitting the targets “through organic growth” as “unrealistic”.

Part of the reason behind Raisio’s flat growth was the increasing competition from private label, the company said.

Speaking to Just Food following the results, CFO Mika Saarinen said it was likely the pressure from consumers shifting to cheaper own-brand products would remain.

He said: “In each category, and especially in the dire times as we are living now, even in this year, in the whole of Europe, purchasing power will be under strain.

“I don’t know whether it’s able to grow much further in the short term but at least it’s there as a one alternative for customers, that’s for sure.”