CHICAGO – Kraft Heinz, under the leadership of CEO Carlos Abrams-Rivera, is embarking on a strategic pivot towards greater innovation, inclusivity, and an enhanced international presence. Abrams-Rivera, who took over as CEO in December 2023, outlined his vision during the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference on May 30 in New York.

Kraft Heinz has transformed significantly over the past four years, Abrams-Rivera emphasized, attributing this evolution to a focused strategy of innovation and organic growth aimed at catering to the consumers of its iconic brands like ketchup, macaroni and cheese, and hot dogs.

“We cannot grow in a competitive environment like food if we don’t invest in marketing and understanding our consumers better,” Abrams-Rivera stated.

In line with this strategy, Kraft Heinz is reportedly considering selling its Oscar Mayer brand to refine its portfolio. Although Abrams-Rivera did not confirm the sale, he hinted at upcoming changes, including new packaging by year-end, and highlighted the introduction of a plant-based version and a stuffed hot dog product.

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Abrams-Rivera underscored the need for a lively portfolio and savvy opportunity scouting. “We’ll always be on the lookout for chances, but we stay sharp and disciplined in how we approach them,” he remarked.

On the topic of innovation hiccups, Abrams-Rivera admitted that while Kraft Heinz had a “good innovation problem,” the fast churn of new products led to inefficiencies and waste. The company has since shifted its focus to disruptive, groundbreaking innovations.

Notable examples include the Heinz Remix machine and 360CRISP technology, initially used in grilled cheese sandwiches. These innovations are part of Kraft Heinz’s strategy to bring truly novel products to the market.

Efficiency is another cornerstone of Abrams-Rivera’s approach. Kraft Heinz has implemented 38 Agile@Scale pods, mostly in North America, with 19 incorporating artificial intelligence solutions. The company aims to enhance efficiency across its factories, logistics, and retail environments.

A success story in this area is the Philadelphia cream cheese business. By collaborating with Microsoft developers, Kraft Heinz introduced sensors across the production line, allowing predictive maintenance and resulting in significant savings. “Just on one line in one factory, it amounted to about $10 million in savings,” Abrams-Rivera noted. This model is now being replicated across the company.

Emerging markets, currently accounting for 10% of Kraft Heinz’s sales, are another area of focus. Abrams-Rivera sees significant growth potential for the company’s well-known brands in these markets. “Heinz is such an iconic brand that even in countries where we’re not present, there is latent demand for our products,” he said, adding that the brand’s visibility in movies and television also contributes to its global appeal.

Under Abrams-Rivera’s helm, Kraft Heinz is morphing its culture to spark a vibe of shared ownership and long-haul thinking. This shift aims to fuel organic growth and sharpen the company’s consumer focus.

“There’s been a buzz of ownership and ambition here, and now we’re looking to evolve those sparks,” he explained. The focus has swung from solo ownership to a collective mindset, nudging a long-term view and deeper consumer connection.

Peering into the future, Abrams-Rivera brimmed with confidence about the company’s trajectory. “We’ve thrived for 150 years, and now we’ve got the team, the structure, and the priorities to keep us rocking for another 150,” he wrapped up.

With these savvy moves, Kraft Heinz is set to reshape its market stance and achieve lasting growth, ensuring its legacy thrives for generations.