Premium play Ferrero NA CEO Chibe aims to bolster company's US presence.

 
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Byline: Gabrielle Saulsbery

Ferrero North America has made some big moves in the last two years. It acquired Nestle's U.S. candy business for a reported $2.8 billion in January, making it the third-largest chocolate company in the country. They nabbed Illinois-based Ferrera Candy Co. a few months before that and Midwestern mainstay Fannie May Chocolates the previous spring. Now, they're rumored to be on the verge of buying Campbell Soup Co.'s international business and snack segments - though Paul Chibe, CEO of Ferrero North America, would not comment on the speculation.Ferrero North America has made some big moves in the last two years. It acquired Nestle's U.S. candy business for a reported $2.8 billion in January, making it the third-largest chocolate company in the country. They nabbed Illinois-based Ferrera Candy Co. a few months before that and Midwestern mainstay Fannie May Chocolates the previous spring. Now, they're rumored to be on the verge of buying Campbell Soup Co.'s international business and snack segments though Paul Chibe, CEO of Ferrero North America, would not comment on the speculation.

He did, however, provide insight on what he's learned from three-plus decades climbing the ladder in the food business. The marketing vet-turned-CEO talked food trends, adjusting to New Jersey and what it takes to be a good leader.NJBIZ: You've been in C-suite positions in the food business for a long time. How are the industries that you've worked in similar, specifically beer and candy?

Chibe: The beer industry is very much focused on positioning, brand personality and identity. That is very much true also in candy.

If you think about beer, lagers are very similar but their perception and their identity is driven by what the brand marketing has done over time. In confectionary the gum category. There's a lot of similarities in gum. But what they've stood for are very different based on the marketing.

The other thing about the categories I'm lucky enough to work in when I share with people that I work at Ferrero or I worked at Wrigley and Anheuser Busch, everyone's excited because they all have an opinion on candy and they all have an opinion on beer. They're very personal. People feel emotionally connected to the brands that they love. When you share with somebody that you work in candy or beer, there's a nice conversation that follows.

NJBIZ: You moved to New Jersey from St. Louis to take the post here. Is doing business here any different than doing business elsewhere?

Chibe: Some of the macro issues that are facing New Jersey are similar to elsewhere in terms of infrastructure and taxes. What's nice about New Jersey is that it has this access to the tristate area, one of the best educational systems in the United States and in the world, and access to one of the best talent pools in the world.

As you're building a business, you basically can get everything you need in terms of people and support, and that can really lead to a lot of success. It's not a coincidence that pharma's...

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