Walkers Shortbread, Inc., the wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary of Scotland-based Walkers Shortbread Ltd., announced the appointment of Mark Kleinman as CEO, effective January 1, 2016. Kleinman, who held senior posts at ConAgra Foods, Groupe Danone and Novartis, has joined the company and is working closely with current CEO Steve Dawson.

During Dawson’s eight-year tenure as CEO, Walkers U.S. business has experienced consistent growth. The 117-year-old, family-owned brand, commonly referred to as The World’s Finest Shortbread, has seen points of distribution and purchase frequency grow in all channels: grocery, mass, drug, club, ecommerce, and specialty. Dawson led the recent successful U.S. launch of Walkers line of gluten-free products, and developed partnerships with Outlander, the Starz hit series based in Scotland, and the ASPCA.

“The U.S. is the largest export market for Walkers, and we are grateful for Steve’s skilled and effective leadership over the past eight years,” said Jim Walker, Joint Managing Director, Walkers Shortbread Ltd. “As a family company, what is most important to us is the strength of our relationships with customers and consumers. If you maintain those, then sales will follow. Steve has certainly been a great ambassador for the Walkers brand, and we will miss him.”

Dawson cited the brand’s exceptional sales momentum, consumer loyalty and growing, compelling social media presence as evidence of the brand’s strong U.S. health and prospects. “This is a good time to pass leadership of our dedicated U.S. sales, marketing and customer service team to Mark, who instinctively knows what makes for great, enduring consumer brands, said Dawson. “My eight years at Walkers, backed by the long term vision and commitment of the Walker family, have been an honor and pleasure.”

Kleinman has made a marked and lasting impact on top consumer brands. In 10 years with Groupe Danone, Kleinman led the product development and launch of Dannon Light Yogurt in the USA and served in General Management, Sales, and Marketing leadership roles in the UK, Canada, and the USA. With ConAgra Foods, Kleinman served as EVP/GM of the $180 million Hebrew National business unit, where he and his team grew brand sales and household penetration and accelerated profit growth. Kleinman also served at Novartis as VP/Marketing Head for Latin America, and held marketing and finance posts at Kraft General Foods early in his career.