CEO of Campbell Soup: The biggest challenge of leading an iconic food brand
MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for:What’s your biggest worry and how are you dealing with it? is written by Denise Morrison, CEO and president of Campbell Soup Company.
The pace of change is accelerating as consumers endlessly evolve their preferences and unceasing pressure is placed on the industry to operate differently. To survive in this environment, companies must be agile to identify trends, make decisions and try new things quickly. My biggest worry is if we can go fast enough — patience is not one of my virtues.
Campbell identified four seismic shifts that are accelerating: demographic changes in the American family; an increase awareness in health and wellness; the ever-evolving digital landscape and a global economic realignment with a shrinking middle class in developed markets and a burgeoning middle class in emerging markets. These shifts are having a profound impact on how consumers engage with food.
Being an iconic food company can be both a blessing and a curse. It can be a curse if amidst change, you maintain the status quo. It is a blessing if you leverage the change coupled with capability to seize new opportunities. At Campbell, we are reshaping our company to respond. One of the most galvanizing things we did was to articulate our company purpose: Real food that matters for life’s moments. It is aspirational and inspirational. We are driven to define the future of real food and are committed to it both rationally and emotionally.
Over the past four years, we have acquired four new growth engines, divested some business and exited others. We implemented an innovation process that helped increase sales from new products. We also closed five plants and drove meaningful improvements in our cost structure. It is solid progress but not enough, so going forward, we have a bolder plan in place. As a large public company, we have processes and decision-rights that are designed to minimize risk, which can slow us down. To address this, we are redesigning many of our processes to eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy, and developing policies and training to drive faster decision-making.
Evolving our culture to operate and think differently is no small task. We are challenging our employees to be the best of both small and big companies — they should operate with the soul and spirit of a startup, while leveraging the scale, resources and capabilities of Campbell — with the goal of ultimately becoming the biggest small company. We are exploring creative models to pursue innovation outside the confines of our normal process, taking calculated risks and learning from them.
Read all responses to the MPW Insider question: What’s your biggest worry and how are you dealing with it?
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