Just about every American business leader is fixated on innovation, disruption and winning. That’s certainly been the focus of ConAgra Brands CEO Sean Connolly since he took charge of the giant food company two years ago.
As Connolly tells Fortune’s Susie Gharib, “It was clear we were uncompetitive in the marketplace,” Connolly tells Fortune’s Susie Gharib.
ConAgra has been in business for nearly 100 years and has more than 50 famous brand name products like Peter Pan peanut butter, Chef Boyardee, Pam, and Hunt’s tomato sauce. With annual revenues of $15 billion, it is ranked among the top 200 companies on the Fortune 500. But Connolly knew that ConAgra needed to be competitive, especially as consumer attitudes about food have been changing toward health and wellness.
As CEO, Connolly has taken bold actions to get the company on an innovation track. He has sold off underperforming businesses, streamlined operations, cut jobs and moved the headquarters from Omaha to Chicago. By far the biggest change was cooking up new recipes for its vast array of food products.Artificial colors and growth hormones are out and healthy and organic ingredients are in.
He also created a culture of innovative thinking inside ConAgra. What did he do to pull that off? “Change is scary. Most people don’t want to embrace change,” says Connolly, adding that his message to employees was blunt. “What’s riskier? Changing or not changing? The risk of not changing really was a disaster. We had to change. And once you look at it through that lens you get mobilized very quickly.”