Nestle Leads the Pack in 2009 Top 100 Food Processors List

Aug. 5, 2009
Just like their Swiss parent, the U.S. and Canadian operations are leading the pack in our annual Top 100 list.

Last year when we published our 2008 Top 100© report of the largest food & beverage processors in the U.S. and Canada, we made special note of the progress made by Nestle’s U.S. and Canadian operations. While they hadn’t moved further ahead than the No. 4 showing they had held for the previous couple of years, they showed the most growth of our top five companies.

Well, 2008 was a stellar year for the U.S. and Canadian operations of the world’s largest food company. In a year in which even the star companies saw modest sales increases – and more than a few experienced decreases – the North American Nestle units increased their revenues by nearly 14 percent. At nearly $26.5 billion, they’re No. 1 on our Top 100© table.

Most of that increase was attributable to Nestle USA, which itself accounted for $24.6 billion in sales. Brad Alford has been chairman/CEO of the U.S. operations since early 2006. He joined Nestlé in 1980 as a sales trainee for Carnation, rose in the ranks through various marketing and sales positions and had been president/CEO of Nestlé Brands, a unit of Nestlé USA, before his promotion.

And while his tenure is remarkable, he had a great predecessor. Joe Weller retired after a 37-year Nestle career and, in 11 years as CEO, he’d built the company through some high-profile acquisitions, including PowerBar, Purina, Chef America and Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream.

When asked to explain the 2008 performance, Alford credited “two key things: Nestle employees, which give us our competitive advantage, and our relentless focus on the consumer. We are focused on anticipating and responding to consumers’ needs, including making more nutritional choices.”

Our annual list, the only ranking of all U.S.- and Canadian-based processors in all food & beverage categories, starts on p.26 of the print and digital issues of Food Processing. While we’ve devoted several pages to the report in this issue, what you see here is a tip of the iceberg that lurks on our web site. We have a much longer story on mergers & acquisitions – courtesy of the Food Institute – than we could fit onto p.30, a longer analysis of the year from our management partners at Grant Thornton and a whole lot more profiles than just Nestle’s – 99 more to be exact.

The web-based Top 100© package has profiles of all 100 companies, profiles that include the basic name, address and web URL but also key executives, parent companies and subsidiaries and – this is the real treasure trove – brands. Nestle alone has 108 brands – it looks like Kraft has more than 500 – but we’ve recorded them all for your searching pleasure on our web site.

This truly is a report you should tear out of this magazine and post somewhere on the wall near your desk. And let that tear-sheet serve as a reminder that there is much more on the web.

Priorities for the new decade
It just occurred to me that a new decade dawns in just a few months (according to most people, anyway). Not that there’s any real magic in that milestone, but the crossing of such a threshold is a good time to ponder and make long-range plans.

We’ll definitely see new Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2010, but what else? I’m thinking the continued growth of stevia-based sweeteners … consumer demands for other “natural” products (and ingredients) … green/sustainable issues … food safety, of course, and changes in government regulations … China? … and the business climate in general.

But don’t take my word(s) for it. Tell me what you think will be the hot-buttons for the new decade, the real game-changers that food & beverage processors need to get in front of.

We want to hear about your companies’ priorities for the new decade, and we’ll try to find consensus on the top issues and explore them in our October issue.

We have posted a poll, What are your Priorities For 2010 and Beyond? , There will be a poll on the home page of our web site, but you can also e-mail me your thoughts.

We’re still seeking your suggestions on your favorite new (less than 18 months old) consumer products and nominations for our December Processor of the Year. The latter is a food & beverage company that’s had a great year, showing sound financial performance (including expanding sales and profitability), innovative product development, leading manufacturing technology, managerial excellence, general industry leadership and service. While an old-fashioned phone call will suffice, e-mails or voting on our web-based polls also will work.

Thanks in advance for your input.