Monday, July 21, 2008

Supply-Side Memo: Kraft Foods, Inc. CEO Irene Rosenfeld is 'Rewiring' the Food Giant's Culture, Focusing on Organic Growth and Revitalizing Brands

Irene Rosenfeld is an unfortunate rarity in the food and grocery industry. No, she's not an industry rarity because of anything "exceptional" such as having a photographic memory or having been raised by wolves in the Australian outback until age 18--although her friends and associates say she is rather exceptional in many ways.

Rather, as the CEO of Kraft Foods, Inc., which is the world's second-largest food company in terms of total annual sales, Ms. Rosenfeld is one of the rare few woman at the top of a major global food company in an industry that across all segments--manufacturing, marketing, sales and retailing--is still headed by and large by men.

Ms. Rosenfeld also might be a rarity in that she is in the process of "rewiring" what many food and grocery industry analysts and observers (and Ms. Rosenfeld herself publicly admits) say has been a rather tired corporate culture and company of late--Kraft Foods, Inc.

Kraft, which is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois USA owns some of the most iconic food brands in the world, including its Kraft brand, which in addition serving as the company name also graces the packages of such globally iconic products as Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Kraft Mayonnaise, Kraft Miracle Whip, Kraft Velveeta Cheese, Kraft Marshmallows and numerous others. The Kraft brand is a global billion dollar brand all by itself, according to the company.

Other global Kraft-owned brands include Nabisco (cookies and crackers), Philadelphia brand Cream Cheese, Oscar Mayer (meats), A1 Steak Sauce, Maxwell House (coffee), Kool Aid, Tang, Cool Whip, Post Cereals, Planters Peanuts, Capri Sun (drinks) and numerous others.

Kraft Foods, Inc. also is a major global player in the heath and wellness and specialty and premium foods segments.

Its premium and specialty brands include the LU brand line of European-style biscuits and cookies and the Cote d 'Or, Milka, Toblerone and Marabou premium confections brands, among many other brands in the categories.

Other specialty and premium category brands Kraft owns include California Pizza Kitchen (gourmet frozen pizza), DigGiorno Ultimate (pizza and Italian prepared foods) Tassimo premium coffee and others.

In the health and wellness segment, Kraft owns and is aggressively marketing its South Beach Living brand of food products, which are designed after the popular South Beach Diet, popularized in the best selling book of the same name.

Kraft also owns the popular Balance nutritional bar brand in the natural sports nutrition category, and has extended its Kraft brand onto dozens of products in the healthy snacks, cereal bar, cereal and meals categories, including its new Kraft Golden Harvest brand of snacks and related food items.

Health and wellness, including numerous natural foods product categories, along with the specialty and premium foods categories, are two chief global growth segments for Kraft, under the leadership of CEO Irene Rosenfeld, who told the Financial Times newspaper in an interview piece published in today's edition that her goal as a young girl wasn't to be the CEO of one of the world's largest companies, but rather to be President of the United States.

Ms. Rosenfeld is still young enough, and Hillary Clinton has put as she said lots of cracks on the Presidential male gender-bias glass ceiling by nearly being the first woman to be nominated by either political party in the U.S. as candidate for President this year, so we suggest the current Kraft Foods' CEO not give up on her childhood goal just yet. After all, presumptive Republican Party candidate for President John McCain turns 72-years old soon.

There can be life after Kraft. And if Ms. Rosenfeld were elected President, say nine years from now, not only would she be the first female President of the United States, she also would be the first food company CEO every elected to the highest office in the land.

But we digress.

It isn't thoughts of U.S. Presidential politics Kraft Foods' CEO Irene Rosenfeld is focusing on these days. Rather, it's what she calls "rewiring" the company's culture, which she says in the Financial Times interview requires first admitting past mistakes Kraft has made, then moving forward in three key ways: reworking some top management, promoting organic (growth from existing brands) growth, and tweaking, improving and extending on many existing brands.

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