2013 Power 50: Gary Rodkin, No. 11 in Suppliers

Gary Rodkin
Gary Rodkin

When ConAgra Foods [3] completed its $6.8 billion acquisition of Ralcorp in January, it became the largest private-brand maker in North America.

“We view this as a fantastic acquisition because it gives us a unique position and portfolio in the food industry. Clearly, retailers are very interested in private brands, and we are now the largest player in that business,” said Gary Rodkin, president and CEO.

ConAgra’s sales of private-brand products jumped from $1 billion to an expected $4.5 billion, and Rodkin anticipates strong results in that part of the business going forward.

“We expect demand for private brands to continue to grow, so these product types are extremely important to us. Our intent is to be a great strategic partner to retailers, and we’ll apply our CPG expertise in innovation, supply chain, packaging and shopper insights to private brands to help retailers grow,” he said.

The breakdown of ConAgra’s business is now 45% branded products, 30% commercial or foodservice and 25% private brands. 

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The firm also snapped up two frozen food brands, Bertolli and P.F. Changs, from Unilever in August 2012.

“We are bringing very strong innovation and marketing to these brands this summer to help drive more traffic to the frozen aisle,” said Rodkin.

He sees big opportunities in the freezer section with new frozen mini dessert items from Bertolli and frozen breakfast sandwiches from ConAgra’s Marie Callender’s and Banquet brands.

With consumers still holding tight to their purse strings, Rodkin said ConAgra is positioned to deliver the value customers are looking for in price, quality and convenience, even with premium brands like Bertolli.

“So that’s the secret on value … being able to meet expectations of a variety of consumers at a variety of price points — all of whom are demanding great quality and convenience for the money.”


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Later this year, ConAgra will combine its flour milling operations with those of Horizon Milling, a joint venture of Cargill and CHS, into a new entity to be called Ardent Mills. The three companies will share ownership of the new operation.

Flour is an important ingredient for Ralcorp products, Rodkin noted at the 2013 Consumer Analyst Group of New York Conference in February.

After a bit of an acquisition spree over the past couple of years, Rodkin said ConAgra would double down on cultivating its current brands for the near future.

“We’ll be focused on growing our existing businesses and integrating the former Ralcorp business during this calendar year and next,” he said.

“We’ve said we are not pursuing significant acquisitions for the time being, but we still expect good growth over the next few years.”

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