Penny recalls tough lesson from Atkins episode
Nov. 5, 2013
Experience comes from learning from mistakes. Leadership comes from not repeating them. Just ask Fred Penny, president of Bimbo Bakeries USA. “When I was running the Entenmann’s business, many of you will remember there was this thing called Atkins that came along,” he said during ABA leadership forum during IBIE 2013. “It was not too dissimilar from things going on today in our industry.”
He noted many food companies aggressively went after Atkins types of reduced-carb, carb-free products. “Business customers wanted it. Consumers wanted it. In our business, we decided to jump in and come out with Atkins endorsed products,” he said. “Obviously, in retrospect, it was a huge failure because most of the companies that went in ended up writing off millions of dollars in product that never sold as the Atkins fad went away.” He said it’s easy to second guess the decision. “But to me the important learning out of that was don’t be too quick to jump on the next fad,” he acknowledged. “Be thoughtful and thorough about what you see happening in the industry.”
The lesson learned? “It’s easy to chase a fad but it can be very painful. I will tell you that for our company, in that year it was financially extremely painful. It was a point in time in my career that if I had thought about what it might have been, we might have said, ‘We’re not going to chase this one.’” Read more about Mr. Penny’s comments and others on the leadership panel in Milling & Baking News or on www.bakingbusiness.com.