Top 11 Most Influential People in the Food Industry

Our picks for the 11 most influential people in the food industry don’t believe in the status quo.

By Diane Toops, News and Trends Editor

2 of 7 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 View on one page

“Although the face of agriculture has changed over the course of our history, ADM has played and continues to play a vital role in agriculture, an essential component of the economy,” Andreas says. But Andreas’ role transcends the company. He is a member of such global organizations as the Trilateral Commission, The Bretton Woods Committee, International Policy Council on Agriculture, Food and Trade, Emergency Committee for American Trade, World Economic Forum, the G100, The Business Roundtable and a trustee of the Economic Club of New York.

“I’ve always had a strong international focus, and my involvement with those organizations highlights that global view,” he says. “Some of my efforts in the international arena include opening the Cuban market to U.S. food producers and becoming the first company to sign a contract with Cuba since the embargo nearly 40 years ago, expanding operations in China and increasing ADM’s investment in South America and the emerging countries in Eastern Europe.”

In addition to the immediate issue of trans fat labeling, Andreas sees the worldwide food industry grappling with biotechnology. “As recent issues with genetically modified corn and rice as well as concerns about plant-derived pharmaceuticals have shown, the current state of regulation leaves a lot of room for confusion,” he says. “This confusion will continue to impede global agricultural trade and create inefficiencies.” ADM obviously will make its voice heard on the issue, while working with growers and customers to meet regulatory demands and customer needs.

-Dave Fusaro, Editor in chief

From mom to magnate

When Brenda Barnes left her $2 million-a-year post at PepsiCo Inc. in January 1988, she helped spark a national debate about the pressures modern women face in balancing home and careers. Despite 22 years at the beverage and snacks company and rumors that she could be the first woman to head PepsiCo, she said she didn't want to miss "another of my kids' birthdays." Now that her children are grown, Barnes not only has re-entered corporate life, she’s at the top of it.

Brenda Barnes, CEO,
Sara Lee Corp.

After just eight months at Sara Lee Corp., she recently was named chief executive of the Chicago-based company, replacing Steve McMillan. She reportedly is a shoo-in to take over McMillan’s title of chairman as well in October. With sales of $19.9 billion, about half of that in food, Sara Lee should keep its No. 8 ranking from last year’s Food Processing Top 100 © list.

All that clout doesn’t come without a considerable challenge. Barnes is charged with transforming Sara Lee back to a food-only company from a diversified conglomerate with product lines as diverse as underwear, shoe polish and bath gels. The transformation plan is built upon three pillars: organizing business operations around consumers, customers and geographic markets; achieving operational efficiency to fund growth; and focusing the portfolio.

“Through the transformation plan, we have established a clear direction for Sara Lee, and I am confident that we are well equipped to effectively execute this plan,” Barnes told analysts in March. “Our leadership team is aligned, we have the commitment of the entire organization to win in the marketplace, we have instituted a project management discipline throughout the company and we have the right resources and talent in place to drive our transformation initiatives.”

After the restructuring, Sara Lee will focus on food, including Jimmy Dean sausages and breakfast sandwiches, Hillshire Farm deli meats, and Sara Lee's own bakery and meat brands. It’s notable that the company expects to realize some $575 million to $800 million in annualized savings through the restructuring, but plans to invest $250 million into marketing and R&D.

“I am a marketing person by discipline,” says Barnes. “I’m also an operating person by discipline, and I think the transformation of those two are what is embedded in this transformation of Sara Lee.”

It’s too early to tell if Barnes can turn Sara Lee around, but she’s an inspiration to women who want to combine a career and family – without consequences -- on their way up the corporate ladder.


Grrrreat! trade opportunities

Sworn into office in February, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez is a core member of President Bush’s economic team and oversees a diverse cabinet agency with some 38,000 workers and a $6.5 billion budget focused on promoting American business at home and abroad. Now, that’s influence!

Carlos Gutierrez,
U.S. Secretary of Commerce

Former chairman/CEO of Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., he was voted by Fortune as one of the most powerful Hispanic Americans in today’s business world. He had quite an impact in his years at Kellogg. Named CEO in 1999, he was the youngest chief executive in the company’s nearly 100-year history, and became chairman a year later. "He changed the mind-set of the company," David Adelman, who analyzes Kellogg for Morgan Stanley, told the Washington Post. "Seven years ago, Kellogg was waffling. It had lost all momentum as a business. Now it has industry-leading sales growth."

Born in Havana, “Carlos' family came to America when he was a boy," President Bush said at the White House ceremony. "He learned English from a bellhop in a Miami hotel and later became an American citizen. When his family eventually settled in Mexico City, Carlos took his first job for Kellogg as a truck driver, delivering Frosted Flakes to local stores. Ten years after he started, he was running the Mexican business, and 15 years after that, he was running the entire company. At every stage of this remarkable story, Carlos motivated others with his energy and optimism and impressed others with his decency."

2 of 7 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 View on one page
Show Comments
Hide Comments

Join the discussion

We welcome your thoughtful comments.
All comments will display your user name.

Want to participate in the discussion?

Register for free

Log in for complete access.


No one has commented on this page yet.

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments