Changing the mold
The largest packaged food company in the U.S., Kraft Foods has made Jell-O, Kool-Aid, and the individually wrapped cheese slice a staple of the American diet. Kraft was founded in 1903 when James L. Kraft went to Chicago's Water Street Wholesale Market to find a quality cheese to sell to local merchants. Acquired by Philip Morris in 1988, Kraft quickly began to benefit from the cigarette manufacturer's financial power. After Philip Morris bought General Foods, Kraft and General Foods were merged.
After the merger, the company sold its bakery unit to New Jersey's CPC International, currently known as Bestfoods (home of Entenmann's and Boboli), as part of Philip Morris CEO Geoffrey Bible's plan to sell lower-margin units. Kraft bought Del Monte's pudding business in 1996 and Taco Bell's grocery in 1997. In these two years, Kraft Foods also cleaned Lender's bagels and Log Cabin lines out of their proverbial cupboard. As a smaller, more nimble corporation, Kraft's Post Division is now giving top competitors Kellogg and General Mills a competitive push. Kraft is the No. 3 company in the cereal market, with 17 percent of the domestic market, just behind Kellogg and General Mills.
Under the umbrella
A lapse in successful brand performance in the U.S. prompted Kraft to intensify its international expansion, but the company hasn't abandoned its domestic markets. Kraft launched an "umbrella" advertising campaign that tactically features a montage of numerous products and presents them together in ads and commercials. The campaign is inspired by Kraft's desire to grow bigger than their name in red and white logo on a blue mac'n'cheese box; Kraft Foods is seeking the kind of public recognition that Nike and Walt Disney have earned for their brands.
The success of Kraft's Oscar Mayer Lunchables, as well as the rise of DiGiorno's frozen pizza, have made Kraft an increasingly popular ally to the on-the-go consumer. Quick changes are even being made to Kraft's blue-boxed Macaroni and Cheese, a pioneer in meal-snacking. The lastest innovation of this American pop-culture icon is called Easy Mac and promises a box to bowl microwave cooking time of under five minutes. As of February 1999, Kraft was in control of approximately 80 percent of the mac'n'cheese category. And if bright orange pasta isn't healthy enough for some Kraft consumers, the company has added Boca Burger's line of soy-based products to its Oscar Meyer division. Or for a healthy snack on the go, Kraft also recently acquired Balance Bar Company with its successful nutrition/enery bars.
In league with the coffee empire
In September 1998, Kraft announced a long-term licensing partnership with Starbucks coffee. The company is responsible for the marketing and distribution of Starbucks coffee to numerous grocers in the western and midwestern United States. Plans are brewing to expand distribution to the East Coast by the end of 1999.
The company completed operational redesigns in February 1999, including a new distribution system and centralized transportation through a load control center. Both advancements are expected to increase Kraft product effeciency for customers and suppliers. In July 1999, Kraft Foods launched a Freshness Efficiency Incentive Program (which the company has researched for the past five years) to get unsalable items off retail shelves by tracking all products, then reimbursing a particular retailer's trade accounts at a common rate.
Finally, crackers to go with that cheese
Kraft may have to undergo another restructuring now that Philip Morris has bought Nabisco Holdings for $14.9 billion. The Kraft logo will soon be replacing the red triangle on all your favorite cracker boxes-Wheat Thins, Triscuits, Ritz, cookie packages- Chips Ahoy, Snackwells, Fig Newtons, Oreo, and even Lifesavers candy. After the sale is finalized in Fall 2000, the company plans an IPO for the combined food business in early 2001. Ten to 15 percent of Kraft's stock will be sold in order to raise about $5 billion to $10 billion to help pay off some of the debt incurred in acquiring Nabisco. The venture has caused speculation to arise over who will lead the new combined company. Kraft's current CEO (as of May 2000) and one of the highest ranking women in corporate America, Betsy Holden, is a likely bet, though there are other men in the running. The IPO has caused even more speculation to arise that Philip Morris plans to spinoff the food company to distance it from the evil tobacco association, but the company denies all accusations for now.
At Kraft the people are "whip-smart, especially in marketing." Kraft almost exclusively hires MBAs in this department, but their marketing information department sometimes hires employees with "proof that they are working on the degree." One contact notes "We are always searching/recruiting for new talent." Kraft representatives add that they focus their recruiting energy on the top schools in the country. Kraft is a company that "promotes mostly from within," so they are very receptive to hiring prospective employees who seem capable of making a long-term impact on the company. Kraft's sales force spans 18 retail regions with nearly 200 cutomer business teams - with over 3,000 sales and customer service professsionals, its sales division is among the most expansive in the U.S.
Kraft hires for all of its food divisions as well as for its Research and Development, Operations, Marketing, and Sales departments. Positions at the MBA level are those in marketing, marketing services, finance, human resources, and operations. For undergrads, Kraft recruits for its research and development, operations, logistics and distribution, engineering, human resources, finance, sales, and customer service departments. Consult Kraft's employment web page, www.kraftfoods.com/careers, for a list of available positions. Because Kraft stresses an internal promotion policy, most job openings are at the entry level.
Kraft Foods offers internships consisting of two to five summers of work experience and year-round advisory assistance through the national INROADS program. The program prepares promising minority college students for corporate and community involvement by placing them in companies like Kraft Foods.
Although Kraft is one of the world?s largest food producers, it avoids an "impersonal, big business atmosphere" by operating each division "autonomously." A "relaxed," "family-oriented" environment prevails throughout its many divisions. The New York and Chicago offices "are located on beautiful, landscaped properties" with ponds and jogging trails.
"Kraft is very interested in retention," and "seems to be constantly looking for ways to assist its employees in their work life." That concern manifests itself in one of the most employee-indulgent environments in the corporate world. Besides receiving a "competitive" salary, employees benefit from a "slew of perks" such as a "professionally staffed cafeteria, in-house fitness center, on-site company store, nurse, credit union, cash station, and laundry services," as well as "on-site oil changes and bus service to commuter rail stations." "They?ll even match two-for-one any donations you make to charity!" one contact raves. Kraft also invites speakers and entertainers to their company cafeteria; past highlights have included Colin Powell, Vince Gill and the Ramsey Lewis Quartet.
Striving for balance
Kraft functions on flex-time, meaning workdays may begin or end anywhere between 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Employees often "spend many hours more" at work than they are asked to. To further assist their employees with time management, Kraft features the Work/Life Balance Program, which "provides information about outside services for almost anything you might need, from a local plumber to child/elder care" as well as many other life issues. There is a dress code of business casual dress in most offices, but "overall the code is rather loose." Almost all employees get "their own phone (three lines), voice mail, computer, e-mail," and "the cubes get bigger and closer to the windows as you move up the ladder.?
My company has a first name - it's D-I-V-E-R-S-E
Though the company strives for diversity, and there are awareness classes are taught every year, one insider complains that "that tells you what the environment is like - a class is needed to explain what diversity is." Kraft is "dominated by Anglos" and "at the very top, by men," but things "should change as the younger generation advances." According to Kraft representatives, those changes have already taken place. The Operating Committee reportedly has "3 African American people and 5 women on it (out of 20...)." In an effort to both promote and support diversity, Kraft Foods sponsors a number of Diversity Councils including: Black Sales Council, Hispanic/Asian Sales Council, Kraft Foods African American Council, Kraft Foods Asian American Council, Kraft Hispanic Employees Council, Kraft Pizza Company Women's Council, Women's Insight Network, Women in Operations, and the Women's Sales Council.
Some staff still snack on lunchables?
Kraft employs a "large number of young adults, 21 to 34 years old, probably 45 to 50 percent women" which helps make "it more enjoyable to work on teams or in groups" for entering MBAs, who are relieved to find that Kraft is "not really old and stuffy." An internal promotion policy provides current employees with "tremendous promotion opportunities" and even moves them "laterally" to ensure they have the experience that they will need to advance.
Where to fit in
Marketing is considered "more high-strung" than finance. Though "finance isn?t as high pressure," the hours there tend to be the longer of the two fields. Workload increases are "cyclical in nature" but "things are typically fun and not terribly stress-inducing." Marketing is generally populated by MBAs, and those that don't have one are working their way towards that goal. Kraft pulls many of its MBAs from Kellogg (Northwestern), Michigan and especially Chicago. One insider notes, "it's hard to get into Kraft, but easy to move around once you're in."
People at Kraft are "generally driven, competent at their job function, and upwardly mobile" and yet "not all-consumed with their job." Kraft is broken up into nine divisions and "there are marketing and finance groups for each division," as well as corporate marketing and finance groups for each functional area (sales, operations, logistics, etc.). Within this system "each person is typically responsible for a brand (such as Honeycomb Cereal) and is chartered with growing the brand and typically the category it competes in."
Under duress, Philip Morris milks their Kraft unit
While some worry about Kraft's association with Philip Morris, employees say that they are "proud" to be part of Kraft's "trustworthy" label. Despite the often idyllic situation, some caution to fellow employees to "watch your back" because parent company Philip Morris' recent struggles may induce them to force Kraft to "become more profitable in the short run."
Terry M. Faulk
3 Lakes Drive1
Jell-O desserts; Kool-Aid beverages; Kraft cheeses and dinners; Maxwell House Coffee; Oscar Mayer meats; Philadelphia cream cheese; Stove Top Stuffing; Tombstone Pizza
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