Beyond the Horizon: SNAC’s 2018 Executive Leadership Forum a Success

November 1, 2018

Beyond the Horizon: SNAC’s 2018 Executive Leadership Forum a Success

Over 160 people, including 25 first-time attendees, traveled to Amelia Island, Florida for SNAC International’s 42nd Annual Executive Leadership Forum (ELF). The conference kicked off with a beachside reception and dinner on Thursday, September 27, where old friends and new acquaintances sampled local honey and salt while discussing the latest tastes and trends.

"It was a privilege to attend my first SNAC International conference,” said Megan Reamer, CEO and Co-Founder of Jackson’s Honest. “From the suppliers to the manufacturers to the executives who all have deep industry experience, I walked away with many new relationships and a new perspective on the snack food category. The sessions were educational, the snacks were delicious and the people were top notch. I'm looking forward to next year's event!"

Over the next couple days, attendees learned about a range of topics including: business strategy, the future of work and commerce, and the importance of digital platforms. NASA Space Commander Mark Kelly took a deep dive into leadership strategies and decision making, providing lessons learned in persistence and resilience. A highly-anticipated panel discussion featured perspectives from leaders in the snack producer and retail sectors. The educational conference closed with a keynote discussion from PepsiCo Chairman & CEO, Indra Nooyi, moderated by SNAC Chairwoman Jolie Weber, CEO of Wise Foods, Inc.

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 “I found this year’s ELF conference program to be exceptional,” said Tucker Lawrence, EVP of Production and Planning at Utz Quality Foods, LLC. “Jeff Rosensweig’s presentation on the US economy was apropos on how economic conditions and policy are impacting our snacking business today; and the discussions by several speakers on the ever-changing social media influence on CPG was especially illuminative.”

Following the morning educational programs, attendees enhanced their networking experience by participating in optional activities such as the annual golf tournament, fishing, sailing, kayaking, and biking with their peers, colleagues and customers.  

Following a unanimous vote from the Board of Directors, SNAC inaugurated the Women in Snacks (WinS) network on Sep. 29 to foster leadership development for women snack industry executives. SNAC celebrated a record ELF female attendance and a 75 percent growth of women attendees from the previous four years.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Amelia Island. I thought the speaker line-up was fantastic and I’m very excited about the launch of WinS,” said Pam Finer, General Manager and VP of Marketing at Amplify Snack Brands. “I love what we’re doing championing a more inclusive and diverse workforce.”

A special thanks to our sponsors for their generous support and to the Executive Leadership Forum Planning Committee for helping to plan a must-attend event. Join us next year for ELF 2019, Oct. 6-8 in Lake Tahoe, CA.

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EDUCATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS

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 KEYNOTE: A Conversation with Indra Nooyi on Leading Through Disruption

On Saturday, September 29, the educational conference featured a highly anticipated keynote discussion with PepsiCo Chairman & CEO, Indra Nooyi, moderated by SNAC Chairwoman, Jolie Weber, CEO of Wise Foods, Inc. Nooyi, one of the world’s most admired corporate leaders, stepped down as CEO two days later after a 24-year career with the company. She reflected on her passion for the company as well as the leadership challenges she faced during her illustrious tenure. Nooyi explained that her passion came from a true love of the company, its brands, and most of all, the people.

Weber began the conversation by asking Nooyi about the guiding principle that defined PepsiCo under her leadership, Performance with Purpose, adding that Nooyi may have been the first CEO to articulate this concept and to take a company a step further than traditional corporate social responsibility. Nooyi explained that Performance with Purpose means delivering sustainable long-term growth while leaving a positive imprint on society and the environment. She instilled this principle into the organization, and let it serve as her lens when weighing important decisions.

From an early stage, Nooyi recognized the shift in consumer trends towards sustainability and healthier products.  Earning buy-in was not always easy. Investments in new technology, product reformulation and new ingredients were expensive and time consuming. She explained that she had to simplify her message to earn support for the new direction. She noted that PepsiCo products fall into three categories: good-for-you, better-for-you and fun-for-you. This simple message resonated.

Nooyi also spoke about managing multiple generations within a workforce, stating that we need varying people from diverse backgrounds to adequately staff jobs in today’s economy.  She stressed the need to allow people to work and have a life at home, especially women. For better retention rates and a better work culture, companies must support families at work and away from work to create a better work/life balance.  

Nooyi closed with a positive message about a career in the food industry. “If you want to build a career, a life, and still contribute to the wheels of industry, ours is simply phenomenal. You can’t taste an app, but you can taste our products.”

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PANEL: The Evolving Snack Category: Perspectives from Retailers & Category Leaders

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(Left to right) Robert Sarlls, President and CEO, Wyandot, Inc., Marion, Ohio and second vice-chairman, SNAC International; Carlos Abrams-Rivera, President, Campbells Snacks; Mike Sherlock, Sr. VP, Chief Product Marketing Officer, Wawa Inc; Mark Baum, SVP & Chief Collaboration Officer, Food Marketing Institute; and Lisa Walsh, CEO, Truco Enterprises.

Robert Sarlls, President and CEO, Wyandot, Inc., Marion, Ohio and second vice-chairman, SNAC International, moderated the panel discussion, which included perspectives from: Carlos Abrams-Rivera, President, Campbells Snacks; Mike Sherlock, Sr. VP, Chief Product Marketing Officer, Wawa Inc; Mark Baum, SVP & Chief Collaboration Officer, Food Marketing Institute; and Lisa Walsh, CEO, Truco Enterprises. Setting the stage for the discussion, Sarlls remarked that the future of snacking is bright. He believes companies must take advantage of the current snacking boom.

“A dramatic increase in the frequency of snacking, combined with a sea change in how people consume food, are redefining our market opportunity,” Mr. Sarlls said.

(Click here to read more on Sarlls’ snack industry insights).

The panelists discussed a range of topics from better-for-you products to the importance of taste to the evaluation of new products.

When it comes to health and wellness, consumers want as much guidance as possible on better-for-you products, but they don’t want to be dictated as to what’s best for their bodies. That’s more of a personal choice, according to the panelists.

“Consumers don’t want to be told what is healthy or what is not healthy. They want to be able to see what ingredients you have in your products,” Abrams-Rivera said.

A decade ago, Walsh recognized that organic and Non-GMO Project-verified snacks were emerging in the natural channel. “Now you look at where we are today. If you are not in that space, you can’t be a player in snacking,” said Walsh, who has more than 25 years of consumer-packaged goods experience and became the head of Truco, which produces On the Border snacks and dips, earlier this year.

Mark Baum, senior vice-president and chief collaboration officer, Food Marketing Institute, suggested that snack producers target what consumers want at the moment of purchase.

“What’s the need state at a given point and time?” he asked. “Is it nourishment? Is it indulgence? It is optimization? What are they looking for? Is it a snack that they’re looking for as a meal replacement? Is it something that they’re looking to feel good at this time? Or is it more of looking at food as fuel?”

Mr. Baum noted the traditional drivers to path to purchase are price, taste and convenience, but not necessarily in that order.

When it comes to supporting new products over the long run, it’s not so much about innovation as “renovation.”

Mike Sherlock said Wawa regularly assesses each new product and makes tweaks based on customer feedback. The convenience store chain also reexamines “in-and-out” products to determine if it should bring them into regular distribution.

“After a product is launched, we evaluate it six months later and then a year later,” Sherlock said. “We take key learning documents to refine the product and make sure we’re continually improving it through an ongoing process.”

(For further detail see SNAC panel deep dives into cutting-edge trends by Dan Malovany, Editorial Director, Baking & Snack)

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The U.S. Economy: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

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The educational program began on Friday morning, September 28 with Global and U.S. Economics Forecaster Jeffrey Alan Rosensweig. Professor Rosensweig led attendees through a breakdown of the past, present and future of the U.S. economy while weaving in potential implications that world economic volatility will have on the U.S. In his dissection of the economy, he noted that more than half of the 4% growth during the past quarter was due to consumption, which overall represents 68% of the U.S. economy. The current high rate of consumer spending is creating a positive future outlook for the CPG industry. Rosensweig noted that U.S. economic growth is accelerating but at a moderate pace, while consistent labor force growth gives grounds for optimism. Another point of good news – snacks are normal goods, not luxury goods, so no matter the state of the economy, consumers will continue to purchase snacks. However, during a state of high economic growth, “premium” snack product sales will increase. Rosensweig also examined U.S. export/import numbers with major partners and discussed how fluctuations in these numbers could impact the U.S. economy and manufacturing industries.


Future of Work: Replatforming & Reskilling

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Daniel O’Connor, 2018 Executive in Residence, Managing the Future of Work at Harvard Business School, explored the future of commerce. He stressed that if snack companies thought Amazon shook up the retail industry, they need to prepare for another major change currently transforming retail in China. Cloud computing businesses like Alibaba are building enterprise capabilities and simplifying trading and transactions between small businesses. These businesses are also shifting focus from the typical business-to-consumer model to a business-to-business model. Because Alibaba’s sales and revenue have outperformed all U.S. retailers combined since 2015, O’Connor predicts that retailers will soon move into this space and retail stores will begin to mirror the architecture of China’s. O’Connor also provided insights on new fully digital stores, such as Amazon Go and stores that provide real-time analytics to the retailer. O’Connor painted a picture of the future that was created by a shift from capital flowing fromstore-based retailers with tech,” to “tech companies with stores.”


Accomplish Your Mission Using Leadership and Resilience

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Captain Mark Kelly, NASA space mission commander and American hero, expanded on his inspiring journey from struggling to fly airplanes in the navy to leading teams on space missions for NASA. The self-proclaimed “clueless” Naval aviator lived by the mantra “how good you are at the beginning of something is no indication of how good you can become,” and went on to fly combat missions in Operation Desert Storm and win countless awards. Through his strength and determination, he became a Captain for NASA along with his twin brother. He led his crew utilizing a Mission Management Team with each member having an equal voice and equal opportunity to contribute to critical decisions. Kelly attributed his success to his team who constantly questioned his decisions, and to seeking out opinions from everyone, especially low-ranking employees.  Kelly cautioned against making high-stakes decisions as a group and stressed the importance of collecting feedback individually before making a final decision.  Kelly revealed his horrifying experience following the assassination attempt on his wife, Gabrielle Giffords, but stressed that the lessons he learned in decision-making, and sheer courage helped him and the team of doctors make key decisions to save her life, and aide in Gabrielle’s recovery. The attributes of resiliency and boldness enabled Kelly to fly on the risky Discovery flight and lay the groundwork for future space exploration.


WinS Breakfast and Launch of Women in Snacks

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To launch the Women in Snacks (WinS) network on Sep. 29, Chairwoman Jolie Weber informed ELF attendees of the unanimous Board vote held two days earlier to formally create the initiative, which will utilize SNAC’s education and networking pillars to champion professional development opportunities for female snack industry leaders.

Following Jolie’s introduction of WinS, Sarah Alter, President & CEO of the Network of Executive Women (NEW), explored the CPG industry’s crisis in female leadership. Alter stressed the importance of a diverse leadership team. She highlighted that women are promoted at similar rates as men through entry level and middle management positions, but that the rate of advancement to the executive level is curtailed partially due to high turnover rates. A NEW survey of eight retailers and CPG companies representing more than 400,000 employees revealed a 31 percent turnover rate for women, compared to a 24 percent turnover rate for men.  Alter explored the main reasons women are leaving their jobs, including: workplace bias, feelings of isolation, a lack of support, and a need for better work/life balance. To help women advance, according to Alter, male and female executives must make a conscious effort to include women in every aspect of the company to ensure they feel valued and well-represented at all levels. Finally, Alter stressed the critical need for male role models to support and encourage women to pursue more senior opportunities.

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Navigating the New Digital Engagement Model

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Arthur Sevilla, Head of CPG Strategy at Pinterest, discussed the importance of brands engaging digitally with their consumers. Sevilla examined the five pillars of digital engagement: personal (vs mass); discovered (vs understood); tomorrow (vs yesterday); relevant (vs distracting); and shaping (vs chasing). Because technology has reshaped the way consumers make choices, which is often by filtering through articles and pictures based on their hobbies/interests, brands need to adapt and become more personalized. Consumers are far less inclined to purchase based on a general advertisement than a personalized one. Above all, brands must connect directly to consumers’ interests and personalities. Today, 97% of search terms are unbranded, which is where brands must seize the opportunity to show the story behind the brand and why they fit a consumer’s interest profile. Sevilla revealed that on Pinterest alone, there are 62 million monthly active users looking for food and beverage ideas and 135 thousand snacking ideas “pinned” each day. To take advantage of these numbers, snack companies must fit into consumers’ varying lifestyles and flaunt their utilities. For example, they must prove why they are the perfect post-yoga protein or the best snack to serve at your chocolate-loving best friend’s birthday party.

 

Click here for a full gallery of pictures from the Executive Leadership Forum, from the networking events to the educational sessions.

Click here to access the presentations from ELF (member login required).


Thanks again from SNAC!

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SNAC team honors Liz Wells on 40 years with the organization. (Left to right: Jolie Weber, Chairwoman; Elizabeth Avery, President and CEO; Lauren Galida, Communications Associate; Jessica Hixson, Director of Government Affairs; Liz Wells, VP of Meetings and Events; David Walsh, VP of Membership and Communications; Colleen Farley, Member Engagement Associate; and Abby Valentino, Manager of Meetings and Events.)

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