Mark Smucker is trying to run his family’s more-than-$7-billion company like its much smaller competitors as big food companies increasingly lose consumers’ trust, and their dollars, to the little guys.
When The J.M. Smucker Co. president and CEO spoke at Walsh University in March, he acknowledged that big food is a bad word, and lumped the generations-old consumer foods company in with international behemoths such as Kraft Foods Group, Unilever and Nestlé, which are feeling consumers’ collective chill in a very real away.
In a 2015 article “Big Food’s Big Problem: Consumers Don’t Trust Brands,” Ad Age reported that between 2009 and 2014, some $18 billion in sales shifted from large to small companies across all consumer packaged goods categories.
But image isn’t Smucker Co.’s only concern. It’s also facing market fragmentation and investors who demand results from an institution that needs to mobilize its 7,140 employees across its more than 20 locations to make moves in the market. Meanwhile, smaller companies are able to compete on faster iterative processes and speed to market.
Smucker Co. is well aware of its challenges, and is marshaling its institutional strengths to streamline processes and capture consumer data to better understand just what people want from its family of brands, and how to get it to them faster.
Smucker Co.’s portfolio has three main groups: coffee, pet food and food, which are just about evenly split into thirds with each representing roughly $2.2 billion in business. Those brands are some of the most recognizable in the country — Folgers, Jif, Crisco, Milk-Bone, Dunkin’ Donuts and its own eponymous brands, which are, in most cases, tops in market share in their respective categories.
The company’s 2017 annual report declares, “At least one of our products can be found in 93 percent of all U.S. households.” For context, the U.S. Census Bureau reports there are 117.7 million households as of 2016, which means only 8.2 million U.S. households don’t have a Smucker Co. brand in them.