“You can’t play it safe if you want to get ahead.” ~Irene Rosenfeld
When Irene Rosenfeld decided to split the major food business Kraft Foods, Inc. into two companies, many people eyed her critically. Male colleagues asked her why she would want to make her empire smaller. She coyly reprised that “size isn’t everything”. Now the chairman and CEO of Mondelez International, focused entirely on snack food brands while Kraft continues to focus on the North American grocery business, Irene Rosenfeld seems happy with her decision, despite some criticism. Mondelez’ stock price has grown steadily in the last year, and the company is already making sweeping changes, including a $200 million initiative for sustainable coffee sourcing, right behind similar investments from coffee competitor Starbucks.
Mondelez International owns iconic brands like Oreo and Cadbury. It also holds other major brands in chewing gum, candy, chocolate, crackers and cookies. Rosenfeld is known for using global distribution and scaling strategy with regional twists, known oddly as a “glocal” strategy. For example, Rosenfeld had her team in China research how to make Oreo cookies sell, as they were proving unpopular in a country not in love with sweets as much as North American or Europe. They applied new flavors like green tea to adjust to regional tastes, and now China is Oreo’s second largest market. Rosenfeld is also an innovator in reducing salt and sugar from snack foods in response to criticism over the obesity crisis in the United States, and has been able to diversify the company’s offerings over her tenure as CEO.
Rosenfeld has a PhD in Marketing and Statistics from Cornell and has spent nearly her entire career with Kraft. For several years she was the CEO of Frito-Lay, but returned to Kraft in 2006 as CEO, being elected chairman in 2007. She lives in an upscale Chicago neighborhood, near where Mondelez is now headquartered, with her husband, who is an investment banker. She remains active in her local synagogue and gives frequently to Cornell University and medical charities. She has a reputation for being a very private woman, but among those who know her as brilliant and sociable.