Innovation in health and wellness the ingredients for success for Kellogg’s

22nd November 2018

Newly appointed UK Senior Sales Director at Kellogg’s Chris Silcock talks about his first job in a local supermarket aged 16, key role models, the big challenges facing global food and drink manufacturers and his favourite breakfast in an interview with HW’s Senior Consultant (Global Consumer Practice) Stuart Richards.

You have recently joined Kellogg’s as UK Senior Sales Director. Can you tell us about your new role?

I am leading the commercial agenda with our customers in the UK, driving the health and wellness strategy and rolling out our exciting NPD. We have some ambitious numbers to deliver and I will be driving the commercial capability with my team across commercial strategy, national account management and field sales.

What was your first job?

I had a paper round aged 13 but my first ‘proper’ job from the age of 16 was working at Asda’s Leeds Killingbeck store in the café and the petrol station during my A levels. I then went to university in Manchester and used to come back in the holidays and work in the same store. I had a fantastic time there and met some really good people.

What did it teach you about business?

I enjoyed interacting with customers; when you are dealing with customers in store they tell you it as it is – they don’t hold back at all. You can get to the nub of what customers want pretty quickly if you spend time in stores. The other thing I learned was the importance of store standards – how things are presented, cleanliness, tidiness, attention to detail, and how frustrated customers get when a product is not there – good retail basics. It was a great place to get a grounding in retail.

What was it that attracted you to the groceries/food and drink sector?

I had always planned to go travelling after graduating and rather than working in store for a year to save up I badgered Asda House for a job for a year. They tried to put me on the graduate scheme but I didn’t want to do it, I just wanted to work for a year and get experience in the central side of retail. I was taken on by Andy Clarke who was running the produce division at the time; he went on to become the Chief Executive. I worked as a trading assistant in the buying department, firstly on produce and then on bakeries. I did that for a year as I said I would and then I left. I just saw a different side of retail, the commercial deals that were being done, some of the volumes that I saw when you are dealing with an organisation that size and you are supplying all stores, it was mind blowing. I loved the pace of it, the speed of the decisions, the urgency with which the business was operating. But it was all done with a fun, open culture. That was the hook. Then I went travelling for 15 months (US, Pacific, SE Asia) and was running low on cash on the way home in Thailand. I sent an email to Andy Clarke and said I’d love to come back and I landed a job in the supply chain. What I consider to be my “continuous” career started then.

After nearly 15 years at Asda what persuaded you to move from retail to manufacturing with Coca Cola?

The director who took me on at Coca Cola said ‘we like the way in which you collaborate with suppliers and we think you could do a great job for us at Coca Cola’. It all went from an initial conversation with him over a beer one evening about careers and what he was doing and what I was doing and I started thinking seriously about it. I had a fantastic time at Asda with a number of roles but I just developed itchy feet; I just wanted to do something else. Surprisingly, there still aren’t a lot of people who successfully switch between retail and manufacturing so I thought that would give me a unique selling point on the CV. I also thought it would be good to see both sides (retail and manufacturing).

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in business during your career?

That success is delivered through others in any leadership position. I did some coaching at Asda and learned the value of listening to people, letting them know you are listening to them properly so they have time to get across their thoughts and ideas, that you are not rushing them. That was huge for me, transformational, and I have used it ever since.

Who have been your key role models/mentors?

Definitely first on my list would be my dad, who taught me when I was growing up the value of money and that you have to work for what you want in life. He worked in the brewery industry, running pubs, and I first gained my interest in business and management from him. Barry Williams, a boss when I worked in the commercial department at Asda, was very straight talking, knew the numbers and the detail of the business inside out, but had a very natural way with people, and I learned a lot from him. He also showed me that you can take risks on people; I was unproven as a category director but he promoted me and took a risk on me, which I hope he would say paid off for him!  I also learned lots from my boss at Coca Cola, Leendert den Hollander; the energy and drive he has and the positive impact that has on the business, and the confidence it gives people and customers. He is a straight talker, very open, very optimistic, with a real urge and desire to get things done. He also demonstrated the importance of having a really strong network. I learned a lot from him, from that perspective.

What single achievement are you most proud of – in business or your personal life?

It’s got to be bringing up two lovely kids – I’ve got an eight year old lad and a six year old girl. That’s far and away the biggest achievement, the family that my wife and I are bringing up – two energetic, crazy kids.

What is the toughest problem you have had to solve in your career and how did you tackle/overcome it?

Getting the best out of the team is always your biggest and most rewarding challenge. There have been times in my career where I have given myself quite a hard time for how I was leading the team. The biggest change I have made to overcome any problems leading people is through good listening and being really clear and open with people.

Kellogg’s boasts brands and products we all know and love and have grown up with. Given this, what are the key drivers for new product development?

I think it is our responsibility as the market leader to innovate, and health and wellness are the biggest areas to do this. This is how Kellogg’s started life, and it’s our responsibility to lead in this area.  We are also looking at which occasions through the day can be satisfied by our products.  These are the key factors that will drive the expansion of our portfolio over the next few years. 

What are the big issues facing the cereal market at present?

I see things more as opportunities than issues; I’m very optimistic. Changing customer habits, food on the go – that gives us an opportunity to innovate in single serve, to look at expanding into new channels. The focus on health and wellness means as part of a leading cereal manufacturer globally we’ll have the opportunity to innovate with our customers on a whole host of exciting initiatives. We are also currently scenario planning for Brexit as you would expect. 

How has food and drink consumer purchasing behaviour changed over the past 20 years and how have global producers and retailers responded?

The consumer landscape is changing rapidly. Consumers are shopping more frequently, with smaller baskets. Where breakfast is bought and consumed is evolving all of the time, and “snacking” as a concept has seen huge growth and still has a lot of untapped potential.  The convenience sector is growing, as are sectors like coffee and food on the go.  We are seeing a lot of acquisition and consolidation across both retail and manufacturing. In order to flourish as a business in these rapidly changing times, we have to be at the leading edge of consumer and shopper led insight and this involves having world class data and analytics capability. 

What do you expect the key advances in technology will be over the next decade that will have the biggest impact on consumer behaviour?

The rise and rise of the mobile phone from a shopping perspective will probably be the biggest continual shift; pricing transparency across different retailers, and the ability to order and have products delivered when it suits you. So the move away from the big shopping mission will continue. Different fitness applications, the way in which technology can monitor your health and wellbeing, means people will ultimately have personalised, tailored nutrition and wellness plans based on what you need on that particular day or at that particular stage of your life. Your phone will be able to tell you what you should be eating, how much of it you should be eating and why, and then you will be able to shop and consume by the same phone. It’s mind blowing when you think about it. Personalised health and wellness will be huge.

What do you think is/are currently the biggest single challenge(s) for global food and drink leaders? What do they need to do now to keep ahead of the game?

I would say it’s using analytics and insight to create products and to provide packaging solutions which will resonate with tomorrow’s consumer, and to build sales strategies to maximise the opportunities in the changing environments in which the product is bought. In order to do this successfully, global players need to invest in technological capabilities as well as traditional category and commercial capabilities. Investing in the right technology will become more and more important.

What is your favourite breakfast?

This is an easy one.  Crunchy Nut Cornflakes with whole milk.

Outside work what else do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Holidays is number one, spending time with the family. Our favourite destinations are the south of France and the south of Spain. Plenty to do for the kids, hot weather, and nice and easy going; nothing too ‘posh’, just down to earth. I enjoy a bit of cycling and running as well.

What targets have you set yourself for 2019 – both personal and business?

To hit and exceed the plan we have at Kellogg’s is number one, and get the team working together in the right way. To become our customers’ preferred supplier is a big target of mine. From a personal perspective, getting back to racing regularly on my bike.

Stuart Richards is a Principal Consultant in the Global Consumer Practice at HW Global Talent Partner. Contact him at or +44 (0) 161 249 5170 or +44 (0) 7787 254 600.

Is it possible to combine an executive and non-executive director (NED) role?

15th October 2018

By Pascale Gara

This was one of a number of questions which sparked debate among financial services executives at an industry dinner hosted by HW Global Talent Partner recently in London.

The informal networking event was held last month to offer advice to financial services executives looking to launch and develop their NED careers.

Guest speaker David Stewart told delegates how he has built a non-conflicting NED portfolio, predominantly in financial services. The former Chief Executive of Coventry Building Society is now Chairman of Enra Group, Chair of the Audit and Risk Committees of M&S Bank and HSBC Private Bank (UK), and Audit Chair at LSL Property Services PLC.

For executives considering taking on their first non-executive directorship, one of the key considerations is whether they can continue in their full time executive position and still fulfil both roles effectively, or retire from executive life before concentrating on developing their NED portfolio.

One argument put forward round the table at the Mayfair dinner was that some CEOs would rather have their executive team fully committed to their business. But others felt companies would benefit from their executives gaining NED experience, bringing an external perspective and additional insight into boardroom dynamics. This is especially true if the NED role is in a complementary or affiliated sector.

For the executive, combining their full-time position with a first NED role will also help the transition from day to day management of a business to life as a non-executive director, meaning they are well prepared for the next phase of their careers and are not stepping into the unknown.

Andrew Merrick, CFO & Regional Managing Partner at Irwin Mitchell LLP in Leeds and a non-executive director at Market Harborough Building Society, who attended the dinner, said: “Whilst I have found the time commitment of an NED role alongside a full on day job challenging, I do think it brings benefits to the day job if you are prepared to put the extra (weekend and evening) time in.

“Taking the time out of the day job to think about things from a non-executive perspective across a broad range of issues can cause you to think a little differently about your executive role. I also think the conscious recognition of the need to switch out of executive mode is useful in easing your way into a non-executive position.”

Bryce Glover, Executive Director at Echo Financial Services Ltd and also a non-executive director at Newcastle Building Society and Cygnet Properties & Leisure PLC, also believes the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

He said: “I have been fortunate in that one of my NED roles and my executive responsibilities are both in the financial services sector and I have found these two roles complementary. They provide a wider perspective on industry issues and, hopefully, allow me to make a tangible contribution for both employers.

“Of course, there are times when some flexibility is required but juggling priorities is something we all live with day to day and, for me, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. I am always learning and being allowed to run both roles in parallel is fulfilling and enjoyable. I wished I had taken the opportunity earlier in my career.”

Adrian Coles, former Director-General of the Building Societies Association, also attended the dinner. Now a non-executive director on the boards of the Financial Services Commission (of Gibraltar), Housing Securities Ltd, Progressive Building Society, Reclaim Fund Ltd and BSA Pension Trustees Ltd, and Chair of the Consumer Advisory Board at Fairer Finance, he said: “I was lucky enough to have a number of NED roles while a chief executive.

“There were two main benefits – it helped hugely in understanding how the NEDs in my own organisation saw their role, and what issues they faced as an NED. Secondly, the way I was given management information as an NED at other organisations gave me ideas on how I could improve the information flow to my own NEDs.

“Transparency is important; I required the explicit permission of my Chair to take any external appointment, and all appointments, and any fees earned, were fully itemised in my firm’s annual report.”

Other topics discussed at the dinner included the pros and cons of having a diverse NED portfolio and what makes a good headhunter.

Non-executive roles can range from sitting on a PLC board where board packs are refined and provide a quick dashboard view, to being an NED on a private equity backed or growth business where you need to ask more questions because all the required information isn’t always supplied.

Another consideration is that a non-executive position at a PLC can be remote, with a heavy governance focus, whereas NEDs may feel they can have a more open discussion and are making a greater contribution in a smaller business.

Adrian added: “I’ve served on the boards of a building society, co-operative societies, a housing association, charities, trade associations, regulators and ombudsmen, schools in both the private and public sectors, and private limited companies.

“I’ve come to realise that there is no perfect form of corporate governance; each has their advantages and disadvantages. Nevertheless, there are some common issues and cross pollination of ideas can be very helpful.”

Getting that first NED role can be difficult; this is where your relationship with a trusted executive search firm specialising in non-executive director recruitment will pay dividends.

Adrian outlined what he thought made a good headhunter: “Someone who has taken the trouble to meet you outside of the process of recruitment for a particular role, and therefore knows your strengths and weaknesses before putting you forward.

“Someone who is able to advise you on those strengths and weaknesses, and knows – better than you perhaps – what you might be suited to. Someone who stays in touch after you’ve been rejected for a role, and gives honest feedback. And someone from whom you can take broader advice on your executive and NED career development, rather than just piecemeal advice as particular roles come up.”

HW Global Talent Partner recruits Chair and NED positions for a number of leading financial services providers, as well as firms in the consumer, retail, technology, pharmaceuticals and renewable energy industries.

If you would like to discuss NED opportunities please contact Pascale Gara, who heads our Chair/NED Practice, at or +44 (0) 113 2432004.


How are FMCG leaders preparing for Brexit?

25th September 2018

By Stuart Richards

With difficulty is the simple answer. Because the only thing that appears certain at the moment about Brexit is that it is causing a great deal of uncertainty…across all industry sectors.

Speaking regularly as I do with commercial leaders in FMCG, it is the subject that is unsurprisingly raised every time we meet.

The actual Brexit deal (or no deal) the UK will end up with remains unclear with just six months to go. But key concerns about the impact on the bottom line centre on how restrictions on freedom of movement of both people and goods will affect supply chains, and how new import duties will alter the share of wallet.

Short term impact will include losses from currency fluctuation, and increased costs from arranging work visas (or whatever system replaces free movement of people) and changing packaging and labelling.

Longer term effects include delays in new product development and investment in UK factories, as companies wait for clarity on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

Industry areas such as farm to fork are already suffering negative effects. A survey published by the Food & Drink Federation found nearly a third of the EU workforce had left the UK within a year of the referendum while 47% of the remainder were considering joining them.

Earlier this month, in response to the impending staffing crisis, the Government announced a post-Brexit migrant farm workers’ visa scheme for up to 2,500 EU nationals for 2019 and 2020.

There is an expectation that the post-Brexit import duties could radically change consumer spending habits, with many likely to reduce expenditure on premium items which will become more expensive, as UK wage restraint continues.

These are not only restricted to ranges like high end skincare products; a recent report by the LSE found that food shortages and price rises could mean even dairy products we import from the EU like butter and speciality cheeses could become occasional luxuries, with milk products attracting tariffs of up to 74%.

In response, increased investment is being made in data analytics to make sure the right product is available to the right consumer at the right time. An example is the personalised online targeting of luxury items to those less likely to be impacted by price increases.

At the same time discussions are underway with retail partners about product placement on the shop floor, simplifying ranges and doubling down on the everyday essentials for the average consumer.

Unlocking further value from the supply chain is another key area being explored, with import duties and potential restrictions on the movement of goods leading firms to seek new UK based suppliers where feasible.

An executive at a global FMCG firm told me: “Brexit, like political turmoil, is not new for multinational FMCG giants as they face similar changes every year across the globe. However, the UK economy has always been a lucrative market for higher value per capita sales and Brexit will undoubtedly throw more caution in the spending power of the shopper.

“We need clarity on overall government policy and other rules to trade across the European region. For the UK to continue being the spearhead for business investment, any dynamic FMCG firm needs immediate clarity and stability on future government policy.”

With just over two months until the last European Council of 2018 – widely seen as the last possible date for an Article 50 divorce deal to be agreed – the clock is ticking. FMCG leaders needing certainty to plan a path to steady growth in a new post-Brexit economy wait in hope.

Stuart Richards is a Senior Consultant in the Global Consumer Practice at HW Global Talent Partner. Contact him at or +44 (0) 161 249 5170 or +44 (0) 7787 254 600.