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Healthy Growth

In Focus
NAME:Wendy Davidson
COMPANY:The Hain Celestial Group
A singular focus on the Better-For-You market has The Hain Celestial Group primed for growth across its five consumer-centric categories, spearheaded by the vision of CEO Wendy Davidson.

Across the fast-moving consumer goods market, brands are jumping on the Better-For-You (BFY) bandwagon as consumers bring their health and wellness goals to the supermarket aisle. And it’s a category that is only growing: the BFY snacks market is expected to reach US$54.3 billion in value by the end of 2032, while the functional beverages market is estimated to reach US$200 million by 2030.

With a career spanning beloved brands such as Kellogg’s, McCormick, Tyson Foods and Glanbia, Wendy Davidson knows that most companies today have a few stock keeping units (SKUs) under their core brands that play in the BFY space. But the Hain Celestial Group is uniquely positioned in that everything it does falls in the category.

“We aren’t in this as a hobby, it’s not just a single brand or a couple of SKUs,” she tells The CEO Magazine. “Everything we do at Hain is about making health and wellness more attainable across all life stages, and making it accessible wherever people shop.”

“Everything we do at Hain is about making health and wellness more attainable across all life stages.”

It was this portfolio of brands, including Garden Veggie Snacks, Earth’s Best baby and toddler foods, Celestial Seasonings teas, Ella’s Kitchen baby food, Linda McCartney’s Foods (a meat-free line) and Cully & Sully soups that made it an easy yes when she was offered the role of CEO in January 2023.

“We’re in the right geographies with the potential to drive incremental reach and we’re uniquely set up because everything we do is in Better-For-You,” she says. “It looked to me as if the opportunity was ripe for us to build an operating model that would allow us to scale the business to reach our full potential.”

As someone who has spent most of her career in transformation, either driving new innovative business models or expanding new technologies, Hain was the perfect mix. “It was everything I had done in the past, but I am able to do it in a pure play company,” she says.

Hain Reimagined

Although two-thirds of its brands occupy category leading positions, until now the company has traditionally focused on specialty retail sales channels.

“But we know that organic and natural has grown exponentially and appeals to more mainstream consumers who are shopping across traditional and omnichannel locations,” she says.

“Our goal is to put the right products in the right packaging and make them easily accessible to the shopper on their journey,” she continues. “We also want them to be at the right price point so that, wherever the consumer is on their journey, they can easily fit Better-For-You into their lifestyle.”

The Hain Investor Day in September last year provided Davidson with the opportunity to unveil a multi-year strategy, called Hain Reimagined. “It’s a pretty bold transformation to reset our business operating model,” she acknowledges.

“Our goal is to put the right products in the right packaging and make them easily accessible to the shopper on their journey.”

At its core is expanding and building existing capabilities.

“There were key moves that really needed to take place,” she explains. “For example, in brand-building, we hadn’t invested at the levels needed to enable our brands to break through.

“We hadn’t launched innovation in the right places at the right time then invested post-launch to ensure that we’re keeping them available and relevant with the consumer.”

Largely built through acquisitions, Davidson says that the last piece of the puzzle for Hain is integration.

“Hain has this great 30-year history as a leader in the space, largely by buying up a lot of small niche brands and putting them together under one Hain umbrella,” she adds.

Yet, in reality, the business was running in 30-plus silos, either by brand, category or geography.

“That had put us in a position where our capabilities were locked into a smaller part of the business instead of looking for the opportunities to leverage synergies to scale our brands,” she admits.

Clear Vision

Now, instead of talking about Hain’s 32 brands, Davidson is pivoting the conversation towards its five consumer-centric categories: BFY snacking, BFY baby and kids, BFY meal preparation, BFY beverage and BFY personal care.

“We have a lot of brands underneath those five categories, but they come together in a way that is relevant to the consumer and allows us to talk with a strong voice to our customers,” she says.

In other words, if a customer is shopping across various sections of a store, Hain has brands across these touchpoints. Not only does it meet the customer where they are, but it also helps large retailers bring – and keep – shoppers in their stores.

“That allows us to speak with scale in the basket, not necessarily just scale in the brand.”

With this shift comes a renewed emphasis on Hain’s core geographies: the United States and Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Western Europe.

“We’re in over 75 countries, most serviced through a distribution model,” she explains. “With these five markets, however, we have an opportunity to be on the ground for deeper penetration.”

“We have a great story to tell – and we also have a great opportunity to deliver.”

Davidson knows that leading any business through significant change requires intentionality: “from how you plan and organize to communication and engagement,” she says. As such, much of her current focus is setting a vision that is compelling to Hain’s people.

“There are a lot of people who refer to culture as soft skills, which always implies that it’s the ‘nice to do’, not the ‘need to do’,” she explains. “I would flip that on its head and say that, as a leader, culture is what drives performance.

“If you really want to change the outcomes of your business, you need your team to take different actions. The best way to do that is to ensure that the experiences they have tell them a story about what is possible.”

Hain, she continues, is currently a best kept secret.

“We have fantastic reach, we have great brands, we’re in the right categories. We have a great story to tell – and we also have a great opportunity to deliver.”

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