January 7/Chicago/Press Release -- The NutraSweet Company announced that long-time president and chief operating officer William L. DeFer has been named CEO of the company effective January 13, 2014. Boston-based private equity firm J.W. Childs Associates, L.P. has owned NutraSweet, one of the world’s most recognized brand names, since 2000.

“Bill has a deep understanding of NutraSweet’s business,” said NutraSweet’s chairman True Knowles. “It makes him the perfect fit by background and experience to take over the company.”

DeFer replaces Craig R. Petray, who is leaving NutraSweet to become CEO of the J.R. Short Milling Company of Kankakee, Ill., also a privately owned supplier of food ingredients.

DeFer has 19 years of NutraSweet experience and a broad background in global food ingredient businesses.

In May 2000, DeFer joined the senior management team of the then newly independent NutraSweet Company. He was appointed president and chief operating officer of the company in 2004. Prior to NutraSweet, DeFer was vice president, Manufacturing and Operations, for Monsanto’s Nutrition & Consumer Sector, which included consumer food, alginates, xanthan gum, and sweetener businesses.

Knowles joined NutraSweet’s board of directors in 2002, and has been chairman of the company since that time. He was formerly executive vice president of Dr. Pepper/7Seven-Up and president and chief operating officer of Dr. Pepper North America.

NutraSweet is based in Augusta, Ga., with a global sales and distribution network.