Nestle still committed to global confectionery: CEO

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INTERLAKEN, Switzerland (Reuters) - Nestle remains committed to confectionery despite unloading its U.S. chocolate operations during a review of the food giant’s operations, Chief Executive Mark Schneider told an event in Switzerland on Friday.

“Our wide portfolio makes us strong...not everything is going to change,” Schneider said. “You have to find focus and areas where you concentrate your efforts,” he said, identifying water, baby food and animal food as Nestle’s growth drivers.

“Sweets are not among those. But we also want to exploit the opportunities of that market.”

Schneider said 2019 had got off to a good start, but efficiency remained important, saying unprofitable sales growth did not make sense. Nestle had to adjust because customer preferences had changed dramatically in recent years, he added, with ever-increasing price pressure from consumers.

“There is very strong price competition. That is reality,” Schneider said.

Nestle has come under pressure from activist investor Daniel Loeb’s Third Point, which last year demanded a faster turnaround.

“We have a wide range of shareholders...everyone has the same rights, all of their priorities have to be listened to,” Schneider said.

When asked if he was annoyed by appeals from some shareholders, he replied: “It’s not personal, just business. I can make the distinction.”

Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Michael Shields