Steve Presley
Apr 9, 2018 · 6 min read

We’re transforming our business, empowering our teams to innovate, and letting consumer tastes lead the way

Nestlé volunteers in Washington, DC head out to help clean up Kingman Island with the Student Conservation Association

The best recipes often have the simplest ingredients. As someone who knows his way around the kitchen as well as the boardroom, I understand that Nestlé’s recipe for success comes down to one thing: people.

This basic truth has informed the work I’ve done at Nestlé for the past 20 years, from my time as a factory controller in Suffolk, Virginia, watching my manager Lou Diaz motivate teams from all walks of life, to my tenure beginning this week as Chairman and CEO of Nestlé USA at our new headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. My vision is that we will become an organization of empowered, collaborative teams relentlessly focused on consumers, and our employees across the company will transform our business to make the best products and own the marketplace.

We’re starting with culture.

To that end, I am putting all my energy into creating a workplace where collaboration is essential, courage is rewarded, speed is expected, and agility is the norm. A culture like this is needed if we’re to transform our business to succeed in today’s market, which is undergoing an unprecedented period of change in consumer habits and behavior. People want sophisticated flavors, nutritious options, and sustainably-sourced foods that taste amazing. Frankly, big companies were slow to recognize this change while small brands and start-ups stepped up to meet this demand.

Nestlé volunteers pack food at LA Food Bank

Being the world’s largest food and beverage company doesn’t mean we can’t be nimble. And it doesn’t mean we can’t win in the marketplace, delivering the absolute best and having a positive impact on the world around us. On the contrary, Nestlé’s 150-plus years of history is one of innovation and adaptability. You don’t win big by thinking small and being OK with the status quo. To ensure another 150 years of success, transformation has to be more than a project. It has to be a way of life. So how does that happen?

It’s all about our people.

This type of transformation doesn’t happen by virtue of TED Talks lingo or corporate hyperbole. Transformation happens by having a vision and strategy for profitable growth and an innovative, people-first culture. We’re going to make this happen by innovating products, of course, but just as important is innovating how we do business and letting our people lead the way. Here’s how we will do it:

Evolve our culture to bring energy and drive.

An empowered culture with modern benefits and a supportive, collaborative environment will draw — and keep — our industry’s best and brightest. Nestlé is creating a culture in which an employee can be a thinker and a leader, not just a doer, and feel empowered to make us better without first asking the boss for permission. I’m a big believer in “people leaders,” and they will thrive at Nestlé. We will lead by investing in our employees, cultivating a positive and engaged workplace, and rewarding innovation and creativity to improve our business.

Take what’s made us successful and build on it.

That starts with our teams working hard to strengthen the brands you already know and love. As part of our hybrid growth model, we are investing in classic, beloved brands and making changes — such as adding essential nutrients while reducing salt and sugar — to capitalize on consumer tastes. For instance, the Stouffer’s Fit Kitchen line took a brand known for comfort food and brought to life nutrient-dense culinary recipes. We believe well-known brands like these can be reinvigorated, and in some ways reinvented, to become more modern and relevant for the next generation. Even beyond our most-loved brands, this philosophy will go into our every process, building future-fit capabilities to improve every aspect of what we do. Nestlé is going to capitalize on the opportunities of e-business, and large-scale data analytics is being brought to bear across sales, marketing, operations, and even the management of our workforce. Tech changes with the seasons, continually enabling better processes and communication, and we will become a company capable of changing that swiftly, too.

Accelerate innovation to give you amazing new options.

Today’s marketplace isn’t going to be kind to businesses that crawl forward. This is why our teams will run. We’re using new innovation models, inside and outside Nestlé, to launch new products quickly, with fast prototyping and quick in-market testing. Our internal start-ups encourage entrepreneurship. For example, our new Wildscape brand is launching nationally this year and offers simple, healthy, culinary-forward frozen meals that consumers will love. In parallel to our internal innovation, we also are capitalizing on mergers, acquisitions — and even strategic divestitures — to help expand the reach of incredible products and focus our portfolio. Just last week, we completed the sale of our confections business to Ferrero. In addition, Sweet Earth and Blue Bottle Coffee are useful examples for understanding how we’re going about acquisitions and investments. Nestlé is investing in high-potential brands like these — the former specializing in the plant-based foods segment, which is expected to be a $5 billion market by 2020, the latter in the fast-growing, super-premium coffee segment — to meet consumer demand.

Sweet Earth’s Strip Seitan Hijiki Salad

The world I knew when I began my Nestlé career two decades ago in Suffolk is unrecognizable today. Social media was years away, Amazon was a toddler of a company, and the food trends of the day paled in comparison to today’s taste, nutrition, and sustainability. The one constant, though, across the arc of my career with Nestlé is the people: Smart, innovative, collaborative, and engaged employees make us who we are. That factory hummed because of people like Lou, an early mentor who taught me that when you work across a spectrum of people, you must lead with credibility. I intend to do just that.

I still carry the important lessons of my dozen years in a factory with me as Nestlé enters this next chapter in our storied history. And I will apply them so that collaboration will be our language, courage will be rewarded, speed will be our pace, and our agility will distinguish us from our competition.

I vow this to each of our employees, and Nestlé’s consumers will enjoy the results for many years to come.


Related Content:

Nestle.USA

Enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future in the U.S.

Steve Presley

Written by

CEO & Chairman at Nestlé USA

Nestle.USA

Enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future in the U.S.

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