Impossible Foods hires new chief demand officer: 'One budget. One mission. One team... No fiefdoms. No territories. No silos'

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Peter McGuinness: 'It's a complete transformation of our business...' Image credit: Impossible Foods
Peter McGuinness: 'It's a complete transformation of our business...' Image credit: Impossible Foods

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Echoing a move he made while at Chobani when he took charge of a new ‘demand’ department, Impossible Foods president and CEO Peter McGuiness has hired CPG industry veteran Sherene Jagla as its first chief demand officer as part of a plan to integrate sales, marketing, insights and product development teams into one integrated function under her leadership.

Most recently, Jagla served as SVP and general manager at Newell Brands, where she was responsible for a $2bn business across 50 brands in 18 categories, following stints in senior roles at Kellogg, Kimberly-Clark, MillerCoors, and Altria. 

McGuinness, who argued that having a separate sales department was “archaic​” when he was at Chobani, said the move would bring multiple functions together to ensure everyone knows what everyone else is doing, stop people working in silos, and ensure that sales and marketing teams were more plugged into what was happening on the innovation and operational front.

“It’s a complete transformation of our business — including how we manage budgets, meetings, processes, execution and customers — so that it's all integrated. One budget. One mission. One team,” claimed​ McGuinness, who recently announced a series of layoffs​,​ but also created some new positions, hiring Leslie Sims as its chief marketing officer and Noel Clarke as SVP of international.

With the charter and oath of growth, no matter which function or disciple it comes from,” ​he told FoodNavigator-USA. “No fiefdoms. No territories. No silos. Just integration and collaboration in service of growth."

‘When you have siloed teams, leaders become hyper-invested in their own teams' goals and objectives’

Sherene Jagla
Sherene Jagla has 'transformed complex organizations into high-performing businesses, and she has a deep understanding of the food and CPG space,' says CEO Peter McGuinness. Image credit: Business Wire

He added: "With the new organizational structure, I think our teams will develop a better shared understanding across departments. When you have siloed teams, leaders become hyper-invested in their own teams' goals and objectives.

“But when teams are integrated and united, everyone becomes collectively invested in the best interests of the company, and that's a game-changing transformation. Suddenly what used to be your budget and my budget becomes our budget, and we're responsible for optimizing it together versus optimizing our own piece of the pie.

“This creates more well-rounded employees with more empathy and understanding of the larger cause and greater purpose, while dramatically increasing pride and engagement across teams."

Dollar sales growth of more than 50% in US retail in 2022 vs 2021

As a private company, Impossible Foods - which has raised almost $2bn since its founding in 2011 - has not faced the same kind of scrutiny as rival Beyond Meat, which went public in 2019 and has been having a pretty torrid couple of years​​.​​

However, with analysts now questioning whether the addressable market for meat alternatives is as large as it appeared a couple of years ago, Impossible is under pressure to deliver.

According to McGuinness: "We feel good about our growth and performance, and the category. And we haven't been experiencing what some of the other brands in the space have reported. In total, our retail beef business continues to see strong growth ​[with dollar sales in US retail up more than 50% in 2022 vs 2021 according to the company, which said Impossible Beef was also the “best-selling product by volume of any plant-based meat brand in the US”​ in the US foodservice market ]

We launched in frozen more recently with a larger family size, and it’s been very popular with both retailers and consumers."

‘We’re still at the very beginning of our growth trajectory’

Asked about the dynamics in the meat alternatives category, which has steadily been losing momentum in the US retail market, with double digit declines in volume​ ​in November 2022 vs November 2021, he said: "The broader plant-based meat category as a whole is dominated by brands that are 10+ years old – often owned by major food conglomerates or big meat companies.

“Many of these brands haven’t innovated in years and are still basically selling veggie patties. We're definitely starting to see some of these products come off the shelf. 

But we want to compete in not just the $3bn plant-based meat industry, but the trillion-dollar meat industry. Our part of the category, which competes directly with meat, has only been around for about four or five years now, and Impossible didn’t actually have any meaningful presence in retail until 2020, so we’re still at the very beginning of our growth trajectory.”

‘I don't think the category has really been created yet’

He added: “83% of the country hasn’t heard of Impossible yet, and 95% of the US hasn’t even tried us, and despite that we are in hyper growth. I don't think the category has really been created yet.

"If we get the products right, communicate with consumers effectively, and continue to increase distribution for greater availability and accessibility, there's so much more room for growth."

Getting the message out there

McGuinness – who says the recent restructuring reflects the journey from a tech company to a tech-enabled food company – said Impossible Foods plans to double down on innovation and instill a culture of continuous improvement in its core categories of beef, pork, and chicken.

It will also focus on getting its message out to a wider audience​ through improved and increased marketing and advertising to raise consumer awareness and understanding of the benefits of plant-based meat, something he says that brands in the space, including Impossible Foods, have thus far failed to do very effectively.

Impossible Chicken Nuggets at Fuku August-21-credit Katelyn Perry
Image: Katelyn Perry

Founded by Dr Pat Brown in 2011, Impossible Foods​​​​​ entered the US foodservice market in 2016 and made an aggressive push into retail in 2020.

Hitting Burger King outlets nationwide in late summer 2019, it has also struck high-profile partnerships in the foodservice arena with brands including Starbucks, White Castle, Red Robin, Qdoba, and Fatburger.

It has also teamed up with Buitoni Food Company, which features Impossible beef in new Buitoni filled pasta products; and Denver-based Custom Made Meals, which manufactures entrees and appetizers for Kroger’s Home Chef brand, to develop plant-based protein products, although it has not provided details about the scope of the collaboration or the timing of the launch.

It does not disclose revenues, but its products are now sold in 30,000+ grocery stores and 45,000+ foodservice locations across the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates. 

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