Classic Heinz Ketchup bottle - Detail - © Stewart Williams

Kraft Heinz launches 10-Year Disruptive Innovation Plan

If you thought the condiments business was as easy and breezy as a summer picnic, you’ve got another think coming. In fact, Kraft Heinz, the leader in dressings, toppings and garnishes, is looking ten years out…

Classic KD Ad - © Kraft FoodsA legacy Kraft Dinner ad: Who would have thought the ancient
and venerable brand might disappear in a cloud of
contagious aerosol during the COVID crisis?

Watching the weather

“If we had done this 10-year plan 10 years ago, we would have understood that birth rates would decrease incredibly, and we would have sold that business, and we would have understood that pet food would increase exponentially because Chinese are having more pets and less babies,” Kraft Heinz Co. CEO Miguel Patricio said June 1 at the Sanford C. Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference.

Dept. of Disruptive Innovation

Innovation will remain a central focus of KH strategic planning and policy-making.In fact, Kraft Heinz now has 124 employees working on ‘disruptive innovation’, Patricio says, He also notes that there’s been a bonus – the emphasis on innovation has attracted new, talented employees to the company.

One disruption that will be particularly visible to the public will be a flip in brand identity emphasis. The ‘Kraft’ name has been front and centre for the company for decades. And ‘Heinz’ has taken a secondary position in the greater corporate scheme of things. That order of seniority will change, with ‘Heinz’ driving company growth in the foodservice category, and in foreign ad emerging markets, Patricio said.

Not a moment too soon

KH appointed Patricio CEO in 2019 after a ‘disappointing’ year during which the company’s share price plummeted more than 27 percent to a record low after management wrote down the value of its Kraft and Oscar Mayer brands by $15.4 billion. Then, COVID came to visit turning the economy upside down. 2020 was a year of momentous change and for KH.

But only this spring has the company emerged fully healed from its near-fatal illness, with a will and a way to navigate ongoing uncertainty in the food sector.

An eye-opener for me…

I hadn’t heard anything about this whole mess. Nothing whatsoever emerged in the consumer media about Kraft’s troubles. My own impression never wavered from my initial, entrenched, comfortable impression of Kraft and Heinz as keystone food household names. Until I embarked on research for this post, I had no idea KH was the corporate powerhouse behind dozens of popular brands.

According to the corporate profile website, “In 2015, the H.J. Heinz company merged with the Kraft company to create the fifth-largest food company in the world and the third largest in North America. Home to eight brands exceeding $1 billion and more than 25 brands in all, Kraft Heinz is not only a successful company but a beloved one. Its brands include Velveeta, Oscar Meyer, Classico, Smart Ones, Kool Aid, Lunchables, Maxwell House, Grey Poupon, Quero, and more.”

Imagine the consternation among consumers if KH had crashed and burned during the COVID crisis, taking with it many of their favourite brands…

My take

The economy has been in much worse trouble these past few years than I previously even dreamed!

~ Maggie J.