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Impossible Foods hires chief demand officer to continue growth path


Dive Brief:

  • Impossible Foods named CPG veteran Sherene Jagla as its first chief demand officer, a unique position which will bring marketing, insights and product development teams together into one integrated team.
  • Jagla comes to Impossible Foods with more than 25 years experience in the CPG space. She was senior vice president and general manager at Newell Brands, which has a portfolio of brands in writing implements, glue, food storage, baby equipment and outdoor goods. She was previously a vice president at Kellogg, working with Walmart and the Kashi brand, and held positions with Kimberly-Clark.
  • In recent months, Impossible Foods has been reshaping its organization to target future growth. CEO Peter McGuinness joined the plant-based meat company from Chobani in April, and the company has also added new executives and cut jobs to better focus on its new strategy.

Dive Insight:

In recent months, several plant-based food companies have made radical changes to how they do business. But unlike many of the others, which are shifting strategy in order to keep their companies alive as sales continue to miss expectations, Impossible Foods says its changes are to continue growth.

Headshot of Sherene Jagla

Sherene Jagla

Courtesy of Impossible Foods

 

According to the release announcing Jagla’s hire, 2022 was a year of record sales for the company. Privately owned Impossible Foods said it is the fastest growing plant-based meat brand in U.S. retail stores, a category where the company said it experienced more than 50% dollar sales growth in 2022. In foodservice, Impossible said its plant-based beef has been the best-selling product by volume of any plant-based meat brand.

In a September interview with Bloomberg Technology, McGuinness said the company was growing 65% to 70%, its balance sheet was strong and its cash position was good.

McGuinness has said that there is more growth on the way — the type that involves making operational changes.

“Our next phase of growth requires tight integration across teams and disciplines, and Sherene knows how to do that and build organizations that scale,” McGuinness said in the release about Jagla’s hire. “She’s transformed complex organizations into high-performing businesses, and she has a deep understanding of the food and CPG space.”

The chief demand officer’s position is not standard in today’s c-suites. At Mars, former global chief marketing and customer officer Clarence Mak told Marketing Week in 2018 that his role was essentially that of a chief demand officer — representing a combination of marketing and sales to ensure that marketing was tightly integrated into everything the company did.

For Jagla’s new role, Impossible is also adding insights and product development into the mix, potentially to ensure that the company’s products, messaging and tone are in sync with what people want and will purchase.

Unlike Impossible Foods, many plant-based meat companies had a disappointing 2022. Sales slowed down considerably and operating and supply chain challenges started catching up to them. Beyond Meat ended the year in the red with a $101.7 million operating loss in its most recent quarter. The publicly traded company had two rounds of layoffs last year and finished 2022 with an urgent strategy revamp to work back toward growth. 

Canadian meat giant Maple Leaf Foods reported a $190.9 million writedown in goodwill for its Greenleaf Foods plant-based division in its earnings report in November. And JBS, the world’s largest meat company, abruptly shut down its U.S.-based Planterra division, which made an array of plant-based meat products, in September.

Impossible has been focused on bucking this trend, which analysts have said could have a lot to do with plant-based meat companies’ failure to connect their products and strategies with what consumers actually want. Jagda’s new position appears to be focused on making that connection, which could help Impossible continue to grow in a difficult atmosphere.

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