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2013 Power 50: Donnie Smith, No. 7 in Suppliers

Donnie Smith
Donnie Smith

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.


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“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.

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“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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