For more than a century, Kellogg’s has helped supply us with the most important meal of the day, with its growing range of cereals and snack foods still a favourite among consumers. However, maintaining classic brands such as Corn Flakes, Sultana Bran, or Rice Bubbles while continuously striving to innovate for evolving markets isn’t quite as simple as ‘snap, crackle and pop’, Belinda Tumbers, Managing Director of Kellogg’s Australia and New Zealand, tells The CEO Magazine.

Belinda has been with the firm since 1998, covering a range of marketing and sales roles in Australia, New Zealand and the US, before she was appointed as Managing Director of Kellogg’s Australia in 2015. During her eighteen years with the organisation, Belinda has demonstrated leadership to drive growth agendas, plus local and global sales initiatives. It’s the combination of this experience, her passion for the food industry, and her exposure to international markets that fuels her strategic leadership style.

A global perspective informing strategic leadership

“I’ve been fortunate to gain great global experience, and to get an understanding of markets outside of Australia. The skillset that I’ve developed has enabled me to come back into this role and really strengthen the business as we move forward,” says Belinda.

The management refresher couldn’t have come at a better time, with Kellogg’s suffering a recent rough patch in ANZ, but fresh leadership, a new commercial plan, and morale-boosting initiatives across company culture has seen green shoots appear once again.

“We’ve had a tough couple of years as a business,” Belinda says. “But we’ve now landed in a great place where we have the right people in the right roles. We’re at a really exciting juncture, with a fantastic new culture. We’ve created the right environment, and we’re continuing to see momentum returning to our business.” Belinda’s governance style has a very clear central focus — people. Hiring the right people, utilising the best talent, but also supporting employees on an individual and
team basis.

“This sounds like a cliché, but what sets us apart is our people. I really believe that we have some of the best talent in the marketplace,” she says. “We really are a team. Every day I see a group of passionate, driven, and motivated individuals who all share a common purpose of making Kellogg’s successful in the ANZ marketplace.”

Equal to this is its products: Kellogg’s has a strong legacy of spearheading food that consumers love and trust, and is also increasing its focus on innovation to target new consumers and lifestyle trends. “We produce really high quality, great tasting food,” Belinda says proudly. “We’ve been in the marketplace for 100 years and we still remain the most trusted breakfast brand when you benchmark us against our competitors — and also brands in broader breakfast categories, such as bread and eggs.”

Cereal thriller: A company excited by its ‘K Values’

The company is grounded in core values — referred to as ‘K values’ — which include integrity and respect, being accountable, having humility and a hunger to learn, striving for simplicity in what is quite a complex marketplace, and celebrating success when it happens. All of which plays into Belinda’s shake-up of the Kellogg’s ANZ leadership team, winning mindset, and organisational culture. She is no exception to this standard. “If you don’t see the ‘K values’ being demonstrated at a senior level, then employees are encouraged to call the leaders out on their behaviour and give them feedback as to what they should be doing differently.

“That cascades through the organisation, so likewise, if we see employees that aren’t living the ‘K values’, then we call them to task.” Being a long-standing success is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, Kellogg’s has a strong history of consumer trust and foundation products from which to grow; but on the other hand, archaic working structures could remain entrenched within the organisation.

 

“We really are a team. Every day I see a group of very passionate, driven, and motivated individuals who all share a common purpose of seeing Kellogg’s being successful in the ANZ marketplace.”

50/50 split proves gender diversity is not just a talking point

Not on Belinda’s watch. Since taking on the Managing Director role, she has overseen bold overhauls, including implementing a strong focus on diversity from the top down. There is now a 50-50 gender split within the leadership team which was a crucial move, not just due to the business benefits of diverse working groups and gender equality, but also to ensure a great connection to target demographics. “We wanted to truly reflect the consumers that we serve today. The bulk of our shoppers are the main grocery buyer in the family for instance, who is typically female,” Belinda says.

“It’s not just gender that’s important to us though, it’s a multitude of different diversity metrics, because different ideas coming from different people across the organisation are what’s going to make us successful.”

Belinda also strives to create transparency around strategic decisions, KPIs, and how each unique team or employee can help champion success, and she says being open to hearing the thoughts of your people can do a lot to encourage engagement across the board. “When people feel that their ideas and opinions are valued and trusted, that harnesses a strong commitment and ownership in helping the business win,” she says. “What is really important to us is setting clear priorities. We want everyone to understand what we are chasing, and why, so that they believe in it and rally behind it.”

In addition to revitalising the company’s leadership styles and the overall working mindset, Belinda has placed great value on a more fun and engaging culture for Kellogg’s staff.

Belinda Tumbers - image

 

“I’m a big believer in leadership driving culture, and culture drives performance,” she says. “I spent a lot of time towards the end of last year focusing on what a good culture looked like.”

Describing herself as a “relaxed” boss, with a “what you see is what you get” approach, she is flexible and believes in having a good work–life balance. She implemented functional new working spaces dependent on each department’s preferences and requirements, and more social events to drive engagement and cross functional interaction such as the annual Melbourne Cup lunch.

“It’s really important that people feel engaged and that they come to work and have fun every day,” she says. “People can get so caught up in the day-to-day and what needs to be delivered that they forget to have fun, so we’ve tried to bring that back into the organisation.”

As part of the change journey, Belinda initiated some ‘listening groups’ in October last year to gather feedback from different levels in the organisation, to understand what was working, and also what wasn’t.

“From that we built five work streams to revitalise the culture, and that’s what we’re working on implementing in 2016.”

With a push for more innovative working practices across Australia, Belinda has also helped to drive a more entrepreneurial culture embedded around increased agility, resilience, and competitiveness. “It’s a change in the way that we operate, but it’s resonating with employees,” she says. “We’re now launching new products — we’ve had an aggressive innovation agenda, with a lot more news coming over the next year that will reflect the change in consumers’ lifestyle today.”

‘Breakfast chic’ making breakfast fun again

Transparency initiatives are also targeting the consumer, with a new platform called Open For Breakfast, allowing people the chance to ask questions about specific products, or even make suggestions on how Kellogg’s could improve them. “We’re very keen as a company to bring the fun back to the breakfast category. We get told by consumers day-in, day-out that they miss the inserts in boxes from back in the day — they remember little joys from when they grew up and they want to pass that on to their kids.” Belinda has also overseen the trend where cereal is becoming ‘cool’ again, with a range of popular Kellogg’s products now ‘in vogue’ with alternative foodies.

A partnership with Gelato Messina has produced a limited edition Kellogg’s Coco Pops-inspired flavour, while Kawa café in Sydney’s Surry Hills was a hit with its ‘cereal pop-up store’, featuring Froot Loop cupcakes, French toast encrusted with Rice Bubbles, and Coco Pops hot chocolate. Kellogg’s has also managed to drive customer engagement and new product opportunities from its long-loved vintage product mascots, as evidenced by a partnership with Peter Alexander to produce a range of Kellogg’s pyjamas featuring images and catchphrases from Frosties’ Tony the Tiger and Froot Loops’ Toucan Sam.

As well as capitalising on the ‘cereal chic’ trend with fashion retailers and popular cafes, Kellogg’s more traditional partnerships also remain strong.

“W.K Kellogg was phenomenal man. He left a lasting legacy, not only for the company, but by touching so many lives arount the world.”

“We have a lot of great partners. Blue Lake Milling has been a long-term supplier of ingredients that are used in the manufacturing of cereal products such as Nutri-Grain, Special K and Be Natural. Linfox and Kellogg have had a long-term strategic relationship for over a decade,” says Belinda.

“Linfox provide 3PL services to Kellogg’s Australia and in July 2016 we also transitioned across to Linfox in New Zealand. Our relationship with Linfox has recently extended into the Asia–Pacific region, servicing our Malaysian business. Hannapak is a great partner to Kellogg, working on innovation and renovation projects for our cereal and snacks products. They supply the majority of our cartons that we use to pack our products in, and we work closely with Hannapak on carton innovation and print finishes to ensure our packaging meets consumer and shopper needs.”

Kellogg’s is one of the biggest purchasers of raw materials and grains in Australia, so maintaining strong relationships with local farmers and giving back to the local communities is crucial, says Belinda. “I’m about to hop on a plane to visit some rice farms and meet with some farmers — some of them third generation farming families that we’ve been working with,” she says. “I’m also going to meet with Manildra later this year to see some of their facilities, to develop more understanding of what they do in their business, how they can complement us, and how we can complement them.

“Working closely with our retail partners is also very important to us. Our products have been ranged in their stores for decades. We value the partnerships we have with all retailers we do business with across ANZ.  Kellogg’s strives to achieve strategic alignment with partners to create a ‘win–win’ outcome for both businesses with regular check-ins and top-to-top strategic meetings every six months. By having collaborative partnerships we can get to a great place. We have business plans in place that take into account the strategic direction of our retail partners, our strategic direction, and how we can both benefit from delivering against the common goal for both companies.”

Partnerships based on trust, mutual respect and collaboration

As well as valuing partnerships that are “based on trust, mutual respect, and collaboration”, suppliers and retailers are also a great source of knowledge to help drive new consumer insights and business success. “Retailers and suppliers are always ahead of the trends, they know what’s going on in their particular field, so by working in close collaboration with them, we can tap into their knowledge and make our product even better than it is today.”

Though some more traditional business ventures must eventually give way to new working models, the philanthropic nature of Kellogg’s founder and Corn Flakes inventor,
Will Keith Kellogg, does not fall into this category.

“W.K. Kellogg was a phenomenal man,” says Belinda. “He left a lasting legacy, not only for the company, but by touching so many lives around the world with his philanthropic work.”

A philanthropic organization doing good for the global community

Off the back of his success, Mr Kellogg founded the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Trust, one of the world’s largest philanthropic organisations, to help children and families in need across the globe.

Following this example, Kellogg’s ANZ launched the Breakfast For Better Days initiative through which the company has donated more than 17 million serves of cereal to people in need. The organisation has also been supporting the Clontarf Foundation, which works to improve education, self-esteem, and employment prospects for indigenous young men in Australia.

“We provide breakfast to help the boys start the day right, in support of the fact that eating a good breakfast is proven to improve performance at school,” says Belinda. “We also make a financial contribution to help more boys go through their facilities, which is changing the lives of Indigenous boys every day.”

 “That’s exactly what W.K. Kellogg stood for: giving back to communities and people across the country that we serve, and delighting people with great tasting foods,” Belinda says. His legacy is still well and truly
living today.”

Employees at Kellogg’s are also encouraged to take the odd day off to spend time volunteering at charities or organisations that resonate with them personally. “That’s exactly what W.K. Kellogg stood for: giving back to communities and people across the country that we serve, and delighting people with great tasting foods,” Belinda says. His legacy is still well and truly
living today.”