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Equal Opportunity Magazine, launched in 1968, is a career-guidance and recruitment magazine offered at no charge to qualified African American, Hispanic, Native-American, and Asian-American college students and professionals in career disciplines. Equal Opportunity empowers readers to move ahead in their job search and/or current workplace environment.

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 Concentrating on Consumers

By early 2017 the consumer packaged goods (CPG) sector earned an average annual value of more than $2 trillion, per research from Investopedia.
That’s an impressive figure considering corporate members don’t turn out big-ticket items, such as autos or computers. Rather, they manufacture everyday products, from food and personal care to household necessities. And, as indicated by the abundance of advertisements for such goods, the industry is very crowded, with startup brands jockeying for position among long-time favorites that have built up generations of loyal shoppers. 
Cultivating a distinct product personality in this environment is challenging. Even well-established brands can find consumers to be fickle, and, therefore, need to regularly reassess perceptions of their products.
The same can be said about how organizations are viewed in terms of culture, community partnerships, and attractiveness as potential employers. Keep reading to see how professionals in CPG - and food manufacturing - address these and other factors influencing this integral part of everyday commerce.
Campbell Builds Better Messaging for Mars Petcare
Even though Lisa Campbell’s rescue dog, Sweet Pea, has entered her senior days at age 12, she still accompanies her human to the office on a fairly regular basis. Many of Campbell’s colleagues know Sweet Pea, and pop in to say hello. On the days her beloved dog prefers to stay home, Campbell gets her pet therapy by dropping by others’ offices to greet their animals.
“I might not know everybody’s names, but I know their pets’ names,” confesses Campbell.
In recent years a growing number of companies have welcomed employees’ pets at work. Research indicates their presence enhances people’s happiness and productivity, and can even improve the health of non-pet owners on staff. But for Campbell and her colleagues at Mars Petcare, bringing animals like Sweet Pea to the corporate headquarters in Franklin, TN is akin to having a permanent focus group for its animal nutrition products.
A member of the famed chocolate and candy corporate family, Mars, which is headquartered in McLean, VA, Mars Petcare manufactures approximately 50 brands of nutritional products, including well-known names Pedigree, Whiskas, Iams and Greenies. It also operates veterinary hospitals around the globe.
“What I love most about [my job] is that it’s meaningful,” says Campbell. “At the end of the day, I know the work I do here is for a really great reason.”
As director of external affairs, Campbell’s directive is to oversee corporate messaging, as well as assist marketing and brand managers in promoting the different lines.
“In 2019 I’m focusing on how to drive connections between the brands, corporate business and our purpose work. I’ll be making sure our purpose work is at the center,” she says. “That’s where I get to put most of my energy and make a difference.”
For Mars Petcare, purpose work extends beyond common social responsibility practices. Executives have declared a company-wide mission to build a “better world for pets.” In addition to bringing animal family members to work, employees are encouraged to take time off to volunteer, especially on pet projects.
On a more formal front Campbell coordinates with other businesses and community leaders to develop more pet-friendly environments. For example, this past fall, she and the Cesar brand management team initiated a back-to-school campaign to help children ease back into the academic routine.
“They’re entering a new place for a new year and that can be stressful for anyone, and especially, for children. These were programs that allowed students to bring a dog to school because pets are natural icebreakers,” says Campbell. “What I loved the most about the campaign is that it leveraged our brand public relations and purpose work.”
She hopes similar efforts distinguish Mars Petcare as an employer of choice with current and potential future employees.
“We want [job candidates] who want to work for a company with a bigger purpose, and we want to make sure they feel included, like they belong. That’s important for our associates and our businesses,” she says. 
That’s true for Campbell, too. She believes she’s found a forever professional home where she can exercise her skills on a variety of tasks, Plus, she gets to indulge in a little Sweet Pea attention throughout the workday.
Explore career paths with Mars at mars.com/global/careers, and follow on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Glassdoor and LinkedIn.
Lopez Keeps Rich Products on Trend
What’s the difference between cooking and baking? According to serious pastry practitioners, cooking is experimental, and baking is a science requiring strict adherence to instructions and measurements. Running the desserts division of Rich Products, which consists of cakes, cheesecakes, ice cream, cookies and specialty items, also demands keen attention to details.
“Whether a transportation or logistics challenge or a new product launch, it’s critical I know what’s going on across the business,” states Lauren Lopez, who was appointed vice president of desserts early in 2019. “And one thing I’ve learned, the more education you have on the business, the better positioned you are to problem-solve and, ultimately, excel.”
In addition to producing sweet treats, the Buffalo, NY-headquartered corporation cooks up pizza, seafood, barbecue and breads sold directly to consumers, as well as supplies ingredients and supplies to foodservice and industrial clients.
Lopez’s education on the industry began with an internship, after which she entered the company’s manager-in-training program. This experience allowed her to observe various departments and functional areas of the business. Then she settled into the marketing field, where she gained critical experience interfacing with customers. After being promoted into a manager position, Lopez became more involved in business development.
“Later in that role I served as marketing lead for one of Rich’s joint ventures in the U.S. It was an incredible experience, learning to build a business from the ground up,” she says.
In 2013 Lopez was appointed senior marketing manager, and two years later, moved into director of desserts, leading the team on strategic planning, managing product life cycles and establishing pricing.
“I was responsible for generating double-digit growth year over year for our fully finished dessert business,” she says.
Each stop along her career path, including her most recent appointment, illustrated for Lopez a few core characteristics of the food manufacturing industry, beginning with the fact that purchase decisions are often an impulse. Of course, people need to eat; however, shoppers indulge in cravings, such as desserts. Plus, adventurous eaters and cooks try new products. Unlike other CPG sectors where trends slowly ramp up, food trends heat up and cool off at unpredictable rates. This forces producers to react quickly.
“Understanding the role that external factors play and how they change the nature of our choices as consumers is really what makes this industry so intriguing to me,” explains Lopez.
“As consumers change how and what they consume, we, as a dessert team, and as a company, need to be proactive and ensure we have the right product mix to meet the changing demands for our customers, and, in the end, consumers.”
As a division leader, it’s also Lopez’s duty to track business currents. One trend she’s watching closely is the competition for human capital.
“This is an issue we face right alongside our customers, so we continually look for ways to meet their needs and creatively problem-solve for them, and for us. As more of our customers struggle to find the labor they need, the need for dessert products that require less on our customers becomes even more important. Thinking with our customers’ needs in mind will continue to be a strategy Rich’s employs,” says Lopez.
And while she knows new developments will force a reconfiguration of marketing recipes, Lopez’s career choices are sweetened with each trip to the market.
“When I go to the grocery store or into a restaurant, and see a product that our team developed and launched, that’s really an incredible feeling of accomplishment,” she shares.
Explore career paths with Rich Products at careers.rich.com, and follow on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Heineken USA & Anyanwu Tap into Solutions
What initially drew Ike Anyanwu to Heineken USA? “To be frank, the appeal of the industry was the first step; it’s beer!” he says of his decision to join the company more than five years ago.
But, truth be told, he found plenty of reasons to consider a job with the international corporation, not the least of which was determining how he could leverage previous experiences from the pharmaceutical industry and IT consulting, and not to mention his knowledge from earning two master’s degrees and certification as both a Six Sigma Green Belt and project management professional (PMP).
Although many of these skills are transferrable across industries, this would be the first time Anyanwu would work with a consumer-facing business.
Founded more than 150 years ago in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, the Heineken brewing company has developed a quality reputation among beer drinkers worldwide, and now includes many other popular brands, such as Five Points Trading and Red Stripe. U.S. corporate offices are located in White Plains, NY.
“Compared to other industries, this industry was unique, considering it manufactured a product everyone could enjoy, of legal drinking age, of course,” says Anyanwu. “This industry stood for good-time occasions, providing great products while generating memorable moments. This was, without a doubt, the industry for me.”
There’s also the fact that Anyanwu purposely doesn’t shy away from big challenges. In fact, his personal mantra is, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
So with that mindset, he realized a new industry with a new audience would test his ability to adapt to a new point of view.
“The beer and alcohol industry is much different in that it operates in what is known as the three-tier system. This system requires suppliers sell exclusively to distributors, who sell exclusively to retailers, and, finally, to the end-user,” he explains.
“It becomes increasingly critical for suppliers to thoroughly understand [how to] develop solutions and deliver products that align to nuances of all customers along the supplier-customer process; not merely the shopper.”
In this regard Anyanwu draws on his business support and IT knowledge. “Essentially, my team is responsible for leveraging data insight and crafting actionable commercial strategies that give our brands the best opportunity to meet customers’ expectations,” says the commercial marketing director for small format.
“Furthermore, we develop unique shopper marketing programs for several of our key small-format customers that include 7-Eleven, Circle K, Total Wine & More, and Walgreens, to name a few.”
Of course, the shopper purchasing a six-pack is never far from any business decision. And while beer makers enjoy a degree of brand loyalty, that can’t be taken for granted in a modern marketplace that’s been infiltrated with artisanal craft breweries in recent years. Plus, shoppers should not be stereotyped. That challenges how Anyanwu approaches brand management.
“The reality is these consumers are not equal in their consumption occasions and shopping habits. It’s not enough to highlight high-quality products with natural ingredients and a brewing process that is second to none,” he insists.
“I lead a team that’s tasked with translating why this is important to millions of consumers interacting with our products each day. We’re tasked with connecting with thrill-seekers searching for quality products while hanging out with friends in addition to consumers seeking to reward themselves after a job well done.”
Dealing with alcoholic products adds a layer of societal responsibility not common to other CPG categories, and Anyanwu has learned that realization always must be at the forefront.
“In addition to driving growth and profitability, my job requires programs, activations and solutions to continuously promote responsibility,” he says. “The idea of supporting overconsumption for a profit is a critical guardrail that is never up for negotiation.”
Explore career paths with Heineken USA at heinekenusa.com/careers, and follow on Facebook and Twitter.
Mason Found Chemistry with DSM North America
Oftentimes, choosing personal care products comes down to price or brand recognition. For Steven M. Mason, MPA, JD, the final decision comes down to the ingredients list.
“My wife laughs at me, saying, ‘You know how most people who go to Target for a bottle of shampoo look at the front? You automatically look at the back,’” he reveals.
It’s not that Mason is a cosmetic chemist, nor is he a beauty specialist. In fact, he holds graduate degrees in public administration and law, and, ultimately, hopes to delve into politics. Since 2016, however, he’s served as a senior account manager for the Personal Care North America division of DSM North America.
This division is based in Parsippany, NJ, and part of the science-based company DSM that operates in three key areas: nutrition, health and sustainable living. DSM also has global headquarters in The Netherlands.
“I didn’t expect how willing they were to put a non-chemist in this position, but, in my interview, I explained I have legal know-how. A lawyer has to effectively represent anyone, a chemist or truck driver. You may not have the necessary knowledge right away, but you have the resources to learn and become your client’s advocate. That’s what I’m trained to do,” says Mason.
Since joining the personal care division, Mason has turned to expert scientists on staff as resources from which he could learn about the ingredients DSM produces, and how they’re used by clients that manufacture cosmetics and skincare products.
“Learning what goes into making a lipstick would blow people’s minds!” he exclaims, adding, “My job responsibility is to work closely with clients, from the product perspective, technical perspective, and business perspective to make sure DSM products are used effectively and efficiently in formulations.”
That efficiency applies to growing customers’ brands, too, especially when reaching out to ethnically diverse demographics.
“When creating products, there are so many skin tones and types. You’re starting to see studies done on various skin tones. In fact, some clients have come to DSM because we’ve done those studies,” says Mason.
Indeed, the company has made a concerted effort to tout diversity as a distinguishing business asset, as a recognition that it relies on a broad knowledge and experiential workforce.
“Look at DSM marketing five years ago and today, and you’ll see more black faces and hair textures in our campaigns today. That’s directly impacted by the fact that our marketing director is a black woman. I’m one of two men on my team, and the only one of color, so I always bring a different perspective. That’s the beauty of having a team that’s so diverse. We want the best representation of everybody at the table,” notes Mason.
A stint with a personal care company may seem like a non-traditional stepping stone for someone whose ambitions are to be an elected representative, but for Mason, it’s been full of learning experiences that reflect concerns of many constituencies.
For example, he’s interfaced with workers on the manufacturing floor who are concerned about being replaced with artificial intelligence (AI). He’s conferred with customers regarding regulations and potential fallout from tariffs. And he’s seen why decision-makers value diversity, and recognizes this as a subject on which he can build a campaign platform.
“I want to get into the rooms with people who don’t look like me, and I want to be in more rooms with more people who look like me. I will do whatever I can to empower people so those rooms look like everybody,” he pledges.
For the moment, Mason is eyeing a seat in the California State Assembly in the 2020 election cycle.
Explore career paths with DSM North America at dsm.com/corporate/careers.html, and follow on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Sidebar 1 (109 words):
Dishing Out a Healthy Industry
Food processing and manufacturing is an essential industry, and it’s a vital segment of the national economy. According to market research by Pollock, the U.S. industry is comprised of approximately 21,000 companies that generate $750 billion in revenue, which accounts for more than one third of all food sales worldwide.
So what are the key ingredients to the total revenue recipe? Here’s a breakdown of the main components: 
Processed Meat: 25%
Dairy Products: 15%
Edible Oils: 9%
Processed Fruit & Vegetables: 8%
Baked Goods: 5%
Snack Foods: 4%
Pet Foods: 3%
Source: An Overview of the State of the Food Processing Industry, Pollock, pollockpaper.com/an-overview-of-the-state-of-the-food-processing-industry
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