Kraft Heinz Turnaround Marches On with New Leadership Additions

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Kraft Heinz Turnaround Marches On with New Leadership Additions

By Lisa Johnston - 08/14/2020
Cory Onell
Cory Onell

The Kraft Heinz Company bolstered its leadership team as part of the next phase of its turnaround strategy, naming Cory Onell as president of U.S. sales and Sanjiv Gajiwala as U.S. chief growth officer, a new position.  

Onell is a veteran within the consumer goods sales industry, having served in leadership roles at Campbell Soup Company, Kimberly-Clark and Mondelez International. He joins Kraft Heinz after a brief stint as senior VP of sales and head of U.S. retail and customer and commercial teams at J.M. Smucker Company. At Kraft Heinz, he’ll be tasked with driving customer and channel growth for the No. 18 consumer goods company.

Onell began his career as a sales rep at The Hershey Company.

As U.S. chief growth officer, Gajiwala will leverage analytics to lead innovation across all company channels. He most recently served as senior VP of marketing at Mike's Hard Lemonade, and has also held roles at Pabst Brewing Company and Northstar Lottery Group.

Kraft Heinz also added a new head of U.S. communications in May, Stephanie Peterson, who joins from IHOP and has held roles at KIND Snacks and PepsiCo. This is also a new position for the company.

Sanjiv Gajiwala
Sanjiv Gajiwala

All three report to Kraft Heinz U.S. zone president Carlos Abrams-Rivera, who took the helm at the beginning of the year. In a statement, he welcomed the trio to the company, noting their additions will help accelerate its transformation agenda.  

“With their inclusion on our U.S. leadership team, we’re adding critical, best-in-class sales, marketing and communications capabilities that will help us build a new Kraft Heinz fueled by innovation, insights and agility,” he added.

Kraft Heinz is currently undergoing a three-stage turnaround strategy emphasizing talent development, reviewing its product mix and new innovation in efforts to reverse declining market share. Organic net sales increased 7.4% in its second quarter, driven by increased retail demand as a result of COVID-19.

Like many consumer good companies, Kraft Heinz faced some capacity constraints in managing the elevated demand, but they were isolated on certain products, chief financial officer Paulo Basilio said in an earnings call. The company is securing more capacity with external manufacturers, fast-tracking capital expenditure projects to improve throughput, and building additional raw material inventory.

Stephanie Peterson
Stephanie Peterson

“In many ways, we are leveraging our intentional strategic changes to better respond to an environment with significant uncertainty,” said CEO Miguel Patricio. “As a result, I'm confident that we'll emerge a stronger Kraft Heinz.”

The influx of new customers and their repeat purchases are also serving as a “sampling opportunity,” Patricio said. “We are learning about who these new consumers are, and that is our obsession at the moment, to keep them with us.”

The company will unveil a new platform-based strategy and operating model in September that includes details about where it sees opportunities to dramatically accelerate growth.

“I can tell you that we're going to be focused on fewer, bigger innovation,” said Abrams-Rivera. “And the good news is that our R&D facilities actually have been open for about six, seven weeks. … We feel very good about our pipeline as we go into next year.”

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