Donnie Smith believes in pairing a solid business foundation with diversity.
In his 3½ years as president and CEO of Tyson Foods, he has built a platform from which a stream of innovative products —many of them healthier — has been launched, including some that have had “no antibiotics ever,” an all-natural line, grilled products with improved taste, even chicken products with gluten-free breading.
“These are a few examples of the 90 new retail products you will see this year in our aggressive product launch schedule,” Smith told SN. “We’re supporting these products through a significant amount of highly targeted marketing, advertising and promotion.”
Smith often refers to Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson’s Discovery Center, an R&D facility.
“Our customers really do focus their interest on ‘The Discovery Center’ and evermore in our ideas — ideas we can bring them for new products and how to help build their business,” Smith said at a BMO Capital Markets’ analysts’ conference in May.
At that same conference, financial analyst Kenneth Zaslow lauded Smith’s business acumen.
“Donnie Smith and his team have transformed Tyson into a top-tier, multi-protein company with long-term strategic and growth targets. In fact, over the last four years, the price of Tyson stock has doubled,” Zaslow said.
“This is particularly remarkable in the face of higher input costs, record tight cattle supplies, and a soft economy.”
At the conference, Smith pointed to the protein diversity as a stabilizing force for the company.
“We’re in all three proteins, and there may be times like you saw in Q2 where our beef segment struggled a bit,” Smith said. “But, having all three proteins, we think gives our investors a stable look because something may not be right in one but we’ve got other segments that will make up the difference.”
In a second-quarter earnings conference call with financial analysts a week earlier, Smith said Q2 was tougher than Q1 with earnings lagging, but he was positive about the last part of the fiscal year, with success based on value-added products.
“Year-to-date, we’ve grown value-added sales by 3.3% as we started filling up the innovation pipeline.”
Tyson added healthy products, and will add ethnic fare. Most recently, the company acquired Circle Foods, a California-based producer of Mexican food.
Smith also reported the company’s international business is improving, especially in Brazil and Mexico.
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