Pillars to build upon Heinz has been subject ot a rush of npd activity but what effect is this having on its brand? Karen Dempsey grills Heinz Europe's president and CEO Dave Williams Heinz is known for a lot more varieties than its old 57 tag used to have us believe. The Heinz npd department has been a frenzy of activity over the past year. One week it announces it's going into tinned tomatoes. The next it's soya milk. And this week we discover it's going into noodles. The company has come a long way from its baked bean and ketchup roots. But what effect is this having on the Heinz brand? We asked Dave Williams ­ who, complete with "57" branded cufflinks, became president and CEO of Heinz Europe in September last year ­ for an insight into Heinz's brand strategy. What's happening to the Heinz brand? Have these disparate launches diluted or strengthened it? We've tried to build the brand on consumer trust and we have quality products that command a premium price.We're just widening our horizons and focusing on what we've always done, so I don't see any dilution at all in the quality of the Heinz brand or in the Heinz mission. But how does something like soya milk fit in? Take a step back and look at where we're going. We are focused on three areas: one is meal solutions ­ everything we can do to help the consumer in providing a meal for the family. The second is flavour enhancers such as sauces and ketchup and the third is nutrition and organic, which covers infant feeding and our organic range of products. So soya fits in there. What is your strategy for growing the business around these three pillars? Over the next three to four years we want to double our sales in Europe and my role is to lay a platform for growth and organise and invest for growth. Europe is not an homogeneous country and my remit covers a wide range of temperatures and tastes and cultures. So we have to make sure we're flexible and fleet of foot so that we service the consumer in these different geographies. We're looking at making Heinz Europe a US$5bn company in that time and that growth will come from extending our geography, from innovation and from increasing the food service content of the Heinz corporation. Acquisitions are also part of the growth platform. Is any one of those a particular priority at the moment? They are all pretty much equal although because we have a small presence in food service so we are growing at a very fast rate. How will you develop the food service side? We believe it's a tremendous growth initiative over the next few years. If you look in the US, over 50% of the dollar spent on food is spent eating out of home and, looking at the trends in Europe, it's going the same way, so we believe there's a great opportunity in building up our food service business here in Europe. We've created within Heinz a special food service division and we're investing in people and in products and acquisitions. Will we see Heinz Soup Bars? We've talked about it but I'm not going to give away too much at this stage. But we have considered Heinz Soup Bars and we have people looking at that. So what other plans have you got for soups? I think there's a lot of growth left in soup and we're looking at alternative forms of packaging that makes soup more attractive and accessible for the consumer. We've already taken soup from the can to the pouch and we've just introduced microwaveable soups. If that format is successful why not extend it to the vending machine and have it available in garage forecourts? Why isn't soup considered a part of nutrition? Instead of a cup of coffee why not a mug of soup? And once we've done hot soup, why not cold soup? In the US in hot weather you have gazpacho and cold tomato soups which can be a refreshing meal or snack. Will they come to the UK? We'd have to test it first and we're not ready to do that yet. But the growth opportunities are unlimited if you open your mind. What plans have you got for your organic range? We are committed to the organic concept. Our beans and pasta products are growing at a fast rate and we have other ideas. What takes the time is making sure you have adequate supply to meet consumer demand but if that's what the consumer wants, then that's what the consumer will have. What other Heinz organic products will we see? You'll see quite a few. We will probably be extending most of our ranges into the organic arena. How's that? What other categories is Heinz likely to move into? It's not about categories but about those three pillars of growth. If you take those three big concepts, that gives us a lot of flexibility to work within. You've recently worked in the Asia-Pacific region. What products does Heinz have out there that might be suitable for the UK market? In the Philippines we have a joint venture with a company that produces a banana-based ketchup, believe it or not, but I don't think we'll be seeing banana ketchup in the UK. In Indonesia we have a chilli and soya sauce joint venture. And we have a great nutritional beverages business that's growing throughout Asia which does things such as carrot juice and vitamin enriched juice drinks. We might bring them to the UK but it's something we need to do a lot more research on. Would they be marketed under the Heinz brand? Maybe, maybe not. Heinz today is not a worldwide brand per se, it's a world of brands. In the US we have Starkist tuna, for example. We didn't take Starkist and put Heinz on it because there is tremendous goodwill and investment in the original brand. You may see soya or chilli sauce under a different brand name because one of the things is to have authenticity and I'm not sure necessarily that Heinz actually transfers to some of the ethnic products. A lot of those [indigenous] brands have inherent strengths with the consumer in the marketplace, so we prefer to build on those strengths rather than say one size fits all. What will be the secret of Heinz's future success? The worst thing you can do is believe that you own the marketplace. If you look at failures throughout history it's always those companies that fail to adapt. You've got to be proactive as what you've got today isn't necessarily what the consumer wants tomorrow, otherwise you will lose the marketplace. There is no permanent competitive advantage in the food industry. Every day you have to get up and prove yourself. How will e-commerce fit in with your strategy? We have set up an e-commerce team to see how we can capitalise on it on a global basis. We are using the internet quite a bit for auctioning. We post details of our ingredient specifications and see who's going to give us the lowest price at the right quality within those specifications. We open it to a variety of suppliers at the same time so everyone can see what their competitors are bidding and we can balance it off between reputation of supplier and price. It creates efficiencies, cuts out a lot of paperwork (as well as business lunches) on both sides and it's a very transparent operation. We save many millions of dollars doing that on a worldwide basis and we're actively doing it here in Europe. Looking at it long term, it can be managed centrally as suppliers go global as well. What about Heinz supplying in that way to retailers? Not yet but it's coming. We'll see more use of e-commerce but you have the brand in there. I don't think HP baked beans are the same as Heinz baked beans so the customer will be looking at what it needs to supply the consumer. The fact the consumer may be forced to buy HP because the retailer got the lowest price may mean the consumer will walk out and buy Heinz baked beans elsewhere. We're talking about products that are more commodity items such as sugar or corn. I think when you get to the finished product it's different. Grocers already have the supply chain so why give up something that is becoming more and more efficient? {{PROFILE }}