Gooder Podcast with Brigette Wolf
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Brigette Wolf is the Global Head of SnackFutures, Mondelēz International’s innovation and venture hub. She is a solutions-oriented, forward-thinking disruptor in the snacking space committed to reorienting the way food and beverage brands talk about snacking by making it a more holistic and wellness-oriented experience. She is on – a – mission.
Brigette and I discuss how she successfully led the development of this new SnackFutures division inside of Mondelēz, bringing global resources, teams, thinking and a new way of talking about healthy food inside the world of snacking.
In this episode, we learn:
- Why Mondelēz took the plunge into better-for-you with SnackFutures, and what they’re up to.
- How great teamwork and great culture have aided the success SnackFutures.
- About the impact of SnackFutures sustainability initiatives.
- What’s driving innovation in mainstream better-for-you snacking.
- How serving consumers and employees adds value to the business.
- What’s driving big CPG to better embrace healthy snacking, healthy eating and healthy lifestyles.
- About the impact that Gen Z has on plant-based snacking.
- Why we need to make healthy living affordable to all consumers.
About Brigette Wolf:
Brigette Wolf is the Global Head of SnackFutures, Mondelēz International’s innovation and venture hub.
Since its creation in 2018, Brigette has led the creation of a cross-functional ecosystem of partners around the world, launched SnackFutures’ first market hub in Australia and created five completely new brands that are currently being piloted in the US and Europe.
Brigette has played a key role in advancing the company’s innovation agenda since its inception in 2012 serving as the senior director of Global Platform Innovation for Gum, Candy and Biscuits – leading the development and launch of Trident Vibes as well as brand manager for Belvita. Brigette’s history with the company also goes back to Kraft Foods with roles including the Global Innovation Manager for Oreo and working across several of the pizza and meal brands.
Prior to being part of the food industry, Brigette worked in investment banking at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse First Boston.
Brigette received her undergraduate degrees from The University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School and her MBA from Northwestern Kellogg School of Management.
Diana Fryc: Welcome again to the Gooder Podcast. I am your host, Diana Fryc as partner and CMO of Retail Voodoo and award winning branding agency, I have worked and met with some of the most amazing women in the naturals and food industries actually food, beverage, wellness and fitness. And as such, I decided to create the Gooder Podcast to interview these great people and subject matter experts and have them share their insights, expertise and passions to help businesses all around the world become gooder.
So today, I’m very excited to introduce our guests Brigette Wolf, who is the Global Head of SnackFutures for Mondelez International innovation and venture hub. Since its creation in 2018, Brigette has led the creation of cross functional ecosystems of partners around the world, launched SnackFutures and created five completely new brands. I’m interested, which are currently being piloted in the US and Europe. Brigette has played a key role in advancing the company’s innovation agenda since its inception in 2012, serving as the Senior Director of global platform innovation for Gum Candy & Biscuits. And prior to being part of the food industry, Brigette worked in investment banking. Hi Brigette, how Chicago today?
Brigette Wolf: It was super sunnyand then we hit rain. So we’re having a fourth season day. We’ll take it the fall colors are out and it’s been glorious lit.
Diana Fryc: Oh, my goodness. Well, welcome. Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to chat with me and share about yourself.
Brigette Wolf: Oh, thank you for having me.
Diana Fryc: Yeah. So you work for Mondelez. That’s a really big organization; many of our listeners are going to know who Mondelez is. But we get to talk about it a little bit more in the future, or in this next question. But I want to start out with something that you said to me when we first started talking, you said, “I’m a reformed investment banker,” and I couldn’t tell if that was an apology or a confession? So maybe let’s start with that. How or maybe why did you go from being from investment banking to becoming a CPG marketer?
Brigette Wolf: Yeah, and it might have been a little bit of all of those. No, I think it’s balance actually of a sensitivity of the world of finance and the reforms of mergers and acquisitions that I worked in, to really wanting to create and be part of the companies from the inside of their growth. I also sometimes do it as a bit of straight cry when you play in food and the marketing and innovation side, there’s a little bit of like, I can do the Excel with the best of them too and understanding some of those valuations and having the both sides right. The external view of how does the market look at companies and then internally how do we think about ourselves in gross? So it actually has been a nice compliment, but it might be a little therapeutic to say if it reform?
Diana Fryc: Well, we all have something in our work history that people kind of go, “Oh, that’s interesting.” So that’s fine. You’re working within the SnackFutures in the Mondelez family. I want to just quickly for those that may not really understand Mondelez that the size of Mondelez. Just at a really high level Mondelez is a…
Brigette Wolf: $26 billion multinational snacking company. We are one of the leaders in snacks. And Mondelez, as you said was created in 2012. But the brands have been around for hundreds of years and you know them by the likes of Triscuit and Oreo, and Trident, Cadbury, Toblerone. So it is a beautiful company of these categories with a breath around the world. And then I get to play in our new sphere and well-being specifically exact features that will talk about.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, so tell us what is SnackFutures?
Brigette Wolf: Yeah, you mentioned it was great. It’s our venture and Innovation Hub. So what does that mean? We create new brands and businesses, really from scratch of what’s needed in consumers and then we invest in emerging startups in the wellbeing space or tech space that we see.
Diana Fryc: You’ve been with Mondelez for a while since 2012, SnackFutures is 2018. So tell us what is your involvement in the creation of SnackFutures?
Brigette Wolf: Yeah, so my journey through Mondelez was from based business kind of CPG traditional marketing and then I got into the global categories on innovation brands as a lead on Oreo and then we moved to these big bang innovations. So if anyone’s seen Trident Vibes, we were seeing a shift in the marketplace. We’re seeing a shift with our culture. We have new CEO and some strategy changes and the biggest thing was;
The worlds of consumer needs are changing fast and the ability to react to them is accelerating. How do you anticipate their need; was something that we wanted to get ahead of, and if you’re going to stay or the snacking leader, how do you get ahead of that? So for us, the ones that we saw that were doing this the best to be honest, was the startup community. These were people who saw pin points, live them and then fought to fix the problem and they were going down the alleys really quickly, and addressing the consumer needs. And so we felt we actually needed to deliberately think, behave and partner with them like we hadn’t ever before.
Diana Fryc: So, partner with them; so just a little bit more about that. Are you stepping into some of those you guys investment? Or what’s the right way of asking this? Like, how involved are you when you say you’re partnering with these startups?
Brigette Wolf: Yeah, I would say so the way we engage with startups is actually we’ve been building the foundations with SnackFutures, almost like your one was find the ecosystem and know who we are and how we operate. And then your two is, hey, we bought some brands and we can talk about if I’m getting those quickly to market on our own. And then the third was investing. So we made a couple minority investments to date, uplifting queue being two of them and then we’ve been doing a lot talking to the startup community more about how do we find more startups to invest in a partner and kind of build on that ecosystem of growing them and ultimately for us.
Diana Fryc: So this is your baby, then, right? This project, this initiative, this division is your baby?
Brigette Wolf: Yeah.
Diana Fryc: Well we’ll talk about why is it important to Mondelez in a moment, but for somebody to take on initiative and build this there’s something drawing you to it. So why is this important to you?
Brigette Wolf: So it’s interesting, I would say the ability to actually create the change that you want to create is a really powerful motivator, we’re quite passionate about consumers. And it was like, how do we take all those frustrations and things that were bothering us and just wipe them away and start over and say, how do we want to show up for work? And what world do we want to create? So there was a little bit of a work, personal piece, we have the corporate mission and purpose of snacky meat that we joke and snap pictures, we do everything on steroids. For us, we actually have a purpose around our mantra is good for people kind for the planet deliciously fun, and hyper consumer centric. So our team is embodying that. And we really chose a little bit of like, yeah, there’s a word of what we invent.
But how much of an ethos do we want to do that, and you hear that in startups. They have an ethos, they have a core value system and we got to create that team, which is the other probably more even personal; like I’ve got my team, but for me, we architected SnackFuturesand figured out some of the operations, the nuts and bolts. But it wasn’t until that night before where I did the kickoff meeting, and I’m like, this is my team. This is our vision of how are we going to create it, and having the opportunity to not just get a job and a role to run with, but really a chance to say, what kind of leader do I want to be? How do I want my team to be able to perform and really be a team? What’s the culture and the value system? That, that’s the fingerprint that is probably the most interesting and a personal thing, because I got to grow in that area, and as we’ve been reflecting the past couple years of what we’ve achieved, you listen to the team have the pride that they have their personal purposes, being delivered this way, or the way that they operate and can think and you just see people really grow. And we use the term unleash someone but to really watch someone flourish, you see them do that with the other cross functional team members, you see it with our agencies. And that’s been a really powerful psychological shares, and cultural, which is great, because then we’re embedding it throughout the organization on a broader basis.
Diana Fryc: Well, so that’s what I’m thinking is like as you are bringing a new way of leading into the organization, I’m wondering if the other business units are saying, “Hey, that seems to be working better over there than what we’re doing over here.” Are you seeing them coming to you? Or do you see just seeing a natural adoption as people move around? Or how’s that showing up?
Brigette Wolf: Yeah, the biggest say of a business need that came in there was driving mentality of innovation. Do something that really serves consumers and adds to the business.
So based businesses are now looking at how do I think differently? How do I have a new lens? And so we’re helping them be like in a 2020 lines, what’s the role of consumers? Approach your business that way. How do you engage in digital and how do you sell? And then the speed with which we do things, we see it actually, in a lot of governments. And today, the conference calls I’ve had from Latin America and Europe, they’re learning and we have it in functional areas, R&D is sharing how they work in legal. How do we simplify things? How do we accelerate this kind of what’s the most important thing you need to know? What’s the minimum you need to know and move on? It’s enabling them to start behaving to get that flywheel going throughout the organization.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, it’s amazing; I have this term that I use pretty regularly and you just are giving an example of it, your strength is your weakness; Mondelez is a beast, it’s huge by design, because there are so many benefits of having all these resources and abilities and then your strength also then becomes your weakness, because now you don’t have the ability to behave like a startup, which is its own different set. I was speaking with Janet Lee from PepsiCo, formerly of PepsiCo, and she was talking about some of the initiatives that they’re doing internally for these exact same reasons that you guys are where it’s like; we get kind of caught up in our bigness and we can’t move fast enough. So how do we adopt some of that into our culture? So that’s really fantastic.
I kind of want to ask around this concept of you designing your own style of leadership and your own style of managing the business, are you learning anything from it that is surprising for you? Or like, “Oh, I didn’t know I could do that?” Or I know this really basic question. But do you walk away with some of those like; wow I just launched five new brands in three weeks or whatever that might be? I don’t know.
Brigette Wolf: I think we had set up, you saw our presentation at SnackFutures; we’ll say we’re pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and disrupting snacking in the what and the how. And I think for us, we took off, we’ll be category agnostic. So go where consumers go, we joke about we’ll be acid agnostic, if we don’t have assets to all the strengths of Mondelez. If we don’t make that good, we’ll find someone who does. I think what’s been so amazing is to see that potential realized or just the networks. You hear it from you’ll say leverage who you know, your one partner introduces us to someone else, or we hear about something else and this just curiosity of figuring things out has been really just mind opening of what else can be done and how? And then of course, the flip side is okay, how do we minimize the risk and the cost and do it in baby steps and manage the expectations of senior leadership of what they want to see? So there’s a lot of interesting conversations of that teeter totter of thinking in a big company, but being small.
Diana Fryc: Absolutely. When you’re starting with something much smaller sometimes you have to throw out this concept of how fast can we scale? You have to just kind of be willing to experiment. So that’s fun.
Brigette Wolf: Yeah. And it’s good to challenge yourself too. We all learn from different managers and leaders we’ve had, what we want and what we want to get rid of. And we think at one point, we all have a view of who I am as a person and what my values are and this is a way of can you keep putting that mirror and check into yourself, are you walking the talk of who you are? And kind of becoming right, that new of maturing into a new level of leadership.
Diana Fryc: Well, so there’s a little blending here, like why is this initiative important to you? We talked a little bit. You mentioned a little bit about the importance of this program and initiative. What do you guys call it division?
Brigette Wolf: Group paradox or whatever you want to call us.
Diana Fryc: Well, so why is this important to Mondelez right now, what you’re doing why is it important right now?
Brigette Wolf: I would say we are the distinct proof points of so much of the theory that we’re talking about in many companies right now about; can we be small? Can we move fast? Can we be consumer centric? There was a whole shift for their CEO. We talk about growth mindsets, than anyone seen the history.
We kind of had our first piece of Mondelez with international markets fell apart and we were batting down the hatches of cost cutting and ZBB. And everyone knows all these acronyms. And then there was this inflection of okay, chapter two of Mondelez’s growth. And the piece there is, what does it mean to really take you for growth and those mindsets and behaviors. And it’s funny when we first announced that features, we had all sorts of pieces of how we were going to operate and the teams were always working. And six months later, I was speaking, similar startup with a conversation. But now I can say, there’s dirt kitchen, and there’s ruckus and CO. and there is Nocoway [?], and we’ve got Capao. And someone said, “Oh, that was really interesting.” I was like, “Well, before you kind have just talked, now you have, like you’ve done it.” For both external partners and startups who look to us of how we plan is it’s tangible and there’s a real belief system now in the employees that this can be done. And the other thing that we try and really disseminate is it’s not special to SnackFutures. Anyone can make small changes, and just think about the humans, not just consumers, think about the people that you’re feeding, and what are the small changes you can make or do you really need all these questions answered? Is there a simpler way of doing it? So I think it’s so important, because to your comments about what got us here is not what it’s going to keep getting us going forward. We have to unlearn some stuff. And it’s hard, when it’s always theoretical, and to see it, and now they’ve got people that they can talk to, and our team is who’s done it and what was it like, and we’ve had mistakes and we’ve had lots of learning. And so how do we get to share our experiences? And then I would say, the passion and the growth and the beauty of it, people are really inspired.
So I think it’s kind of critical for the company both on the portfolio we’re generating that business to get them to the size where they need to make a material impact. But at the same time, when you can shift the whole culture, then you can shift all of our base businesses.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, and you can start using terms like risk in kind of a neutral way instead of when you’re an organization. When you’re a company the size of Mondelez, risk is kind of a bad word and you’ve got a whole host of people with charts and graphs whose sole job is to mitigate risk. And sometimes you can kill a really good idea because you can prove it wrong in so many different angles, but not see that one spark of this is going to work because of this one thing. So I know it’s a balancing acting and those charts and graphs people we need them, we don’t want to lose the charts and graphs people. But we really need the gut checkers, we really do otherwise, we miss opportunities with the human because the charts and graphs people are all very, but the human component is missing and super important. So on that note, then when we talk about SnackFutures, in the research that I’ve done, I see this is not necessarily product and innovation driven. I think I saw other elements like sustainability, maybe a couple of other things. Was that always the intention? Or is that just kind of organically coming along the way?
Brigette Wolf: I think when we set up the group it was to hit on when we say well-being holistically planetary health and people health and then because we do snacks, it’s got to be delicious. So right, that’s where those three components come in. We really wanted in mind for when you get a chance to start from scratch, how do you do that as ‘right’ as you can. So it’s in some of our cases, all of our packaging and commitments at Mondelez level already be sustainable and recyclable by 2025. So let’s start with everything that we create. Let’s figure out how to have that be in the cycle of recyclability. When it comes to our food supply, where are the opportunities that we can do a bonus it may not be everything as a brand. So under kitchen we have rescued veggies and we work with a company, we have full harvests to figure out how did we do that? When we did Capao that brand actually came from in one of our huge categories is chocolate. Chocolate comes from this fruit, that most of the fruit gets wasted in the supply chain. But it’s edible. So how do you take the fruit part of the Capao fruit and make that snackable? So there’s a food waste piece there. We have a brand that actually we said, “You know why we have some strategic spaces?”
One of them being plant first; where the design and intent was to be sustainable holistically. So it is a carbon compensating product. It is locally sourced, locally made in France and it’s a carbon neutral brand. So that was designed for eco conscious Millennials that their aperitif moment; they can socialize with them, they can feel that they’re actively participating in a product that was really designed from the plants. So I think that’s the piece for us is Holistic Health is how do we do good all the way around? And as these brands hopefully grow, we can give back to the communities and do more social good there, too. So that’s really exciting.
Diana Fryc: I love that. Part of the reason why I reached out to you, and this conversation that we’re having is one of the goals that I have of this podcast is for us to start kind of bridging this gap between the conventional brands and the natural community, so that all of these consumers that are kind of on the conventional side that seemed to be kind of being left behind in this health and wellness education, that is just the naturals industry is so deeply entrenched in strong and build that transition map. That’s what I love about SnackFutures is it’s building this language and education for a consumer that has been primarily ignored, and in some instances, has the greatest need to be making that journey from where they are to where they’re going. Now, nobody says that you need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but we have to be able to educate people to say this is how you eat this kind of food and here’s how you eat other foods as part of your diet, etcetera.
Brigette Wolf: The whole portfolio of choice is so important.
Diana Fryc: Yes, and there was something that you had said about using the inertia of the Oreo brand, or the elephant, so to speak, brand to affect change in healthy snacking. What do you specifically mean by this? And can you share an example of how this inertia is helping the SnackFutures initiatives?
Brigette Wolf: Yeah, I think we have this really nice symbiotic way of the SnackFutures team is sometimes on the bleeding edge of what’s going on. As you said, we’re immersed in that conversation of well-being in that space. So how do you translate that back to the masses, which right now that’s the power hitters so we can get the base of the business. So that’s 26 billion turning and churning for your good, that’s going to make a really big impact. And we already have in fairness, we have a wonderful impact lead and we have programs called Cacao life that are just transformation when I think about giving farmers livelihood and women in the community the ability to earn their own money but also educate and building bathrooms in schools for girls because the want the girls that are going to school. So really amazing pieces that fit the business and then more so futures companies like we can kind of relate that’s so critical, or we’re hearing this and this brand by the way you guys might want to consider this is like an opportunity perfect for you and it fits with your brand and it will totally make a difference and it can drive that incrementality. It’s how we renovate our based businesses to be relevant and the world of relevance today is a lot more well-being mindful snacking the piece to our impact that we have sustainability and mindful snacking. There’s actually some wonderful work going on there at the corporate level of mindful snacking where for someone like me as a wicked sweet tooth, and I inhale food, it’s learning how to eat and I’ll give two examples.
So one on Oreo; we try and tell people like how many Oreos is a serving visually versus grams. How do you start to savor our chocolate and learn? We have a beautiful job local cacao coat here in Europe, and it’s no extra speaking of elephants, it actually has an elephant printed on it. I never knew. We did this mindful snack and they’re like you first unwrap it and it’s about using all your senses. Now look at it. That was like the first aha and then it smell it and then take a bite and just let it know and savor it. And you could have a really mindful experiencing one small piece of chocolate versus just bulldozing the whole bar. And even in the healthy people, there’s nothing wrong with indulgence and goodness me we need the sweet but how do we give more choices in a portfolio? How do we teach people kind of when people say drink responsibly, how do you eat responsibly and how do you turn off all devices when you’re eating and you’re not just keep shoveling stuff.
So there’s some cool learning going on that we can talk about and then when we see things in the market, we can help remind the base business, “Hey, there’s something really cool over here that you guys can plan.”
Diana Fryc: That’s kind of exciting. Like it’s such a this mindfulness and a lot of people are open to learning about mindfulness right now, this is a really great time amongst this COVID shut down to hear; people are open to going, “Oh what is mindfulness? Oh, I’m going to enjoy my Oreo, I’m going to enjoy my kale chip, or I’m going to walk across the room and smell my mother baking something, whatever.” And I love that we’ve got this huge company who’s really at the end of the day, the goal is to sell as much product as possible, thinking about their impact, and kind of going, “Okay, maybe we can be responsible, but maybe in a different way.” Like okay, nothing wrong with an Oreo; but let’s not sit down and have a whole package in 15 minute increments. I love that. You’ve spoken with other multinationals kind of around initiatives like this and it’s so exciting for me to see all of this work that’s being done this embracing of healthy snacking, healthy eating, healthy lifestyles, outside of consumer trends and margins for products in this healthier space. What do you think is really driving brands to start caring more than they have in the past? I know, this is kind of like hypothetical, you can’t speak for the industry, but you must have an opinion.
Brigette Wolf: Yeah, I think there are a couple of things happening. One is I like to remind our marketers that, as I said before, like, it’s not just the consumer, it’s not this alien who eats, it’s a human being; it’s you and your children and your friends and your colleagues. So there’s a little bit of remindingus of what’s going on in the world of you just consumers, we have our phones, we’re more informed than ever, we seek transparency, we’re looking for food instead of medicine and the formal cases many times or how do I manage my stress and my sleep through natural stuff? I think there’s an inherent exploratory piece of what’s the new latest and greatest mushroom or turmeric, or whatever it is; it’s going to get the panacea for the day. And then the flip side for consumers and small companies who look at the big companies is don’t forget, yeah there’s a machine but the company is made up of people, it’s made up of the employees and I am a mother of two, I am a bit of a fitness junkie.
Well, I love my sweets; I have to manage it on the other side of sweets. And so there’s a human internally in these companies that what’s the world that we want to create for the future of snacking for ourselves and for our families? I make the running joke; why some of the SnackFutures brands are so important is, yeah, someone else can do it. But why should my pantry be with someone else’s? Like why isn’t it these brands? Why are they our brands? And so I think it’s you want both sides, and it’s reallyreminding ourselves that all these companies still are made up of individual humans who have their own kind of dreams and wishes and challenges that we’re trying to solve for. And it just when you break it down to that level, it makes it much more interesting of trying to figure out, right now the world’s on fire, how do we fix that? How do we do better? And I think, now more than ever, it was starting to build but now more than ever, it’s I think everyone’s just taking a pause of the hamster wheels and all things being like where do we really make a difference?
Diana Fryc: Yeah. Curious too; I’m wondering, is it the age of the kind of leadership that’s coming in that you feel is having the impact? Like Gen X are or more in their older Millennials are taking on these really big roles? Or is it really a drive more down funnel? Like, is it that work? Oh, there’s so much input from Gen Z or the younger Millennials that are pushing it as a combination of all of it. Is there just a general openness overall?
Brigette Wolf: I think there is a more openness to respond to what’s going on from the historic big companies, mass marketing scale, and retail vision channels.
You got all the eyeballs and you just put whatever product you want through the mass grocery stores and you control the marketplace. I think that paradigm and the recognition of leaders in our holding senior are realizing it shifting because the first piece is, small players can access capital and get in anywhere that they want. They can now set up DTC sites and on E-Com, and they can access consumers now faster than ever. So all those barriers to entry forced the hands of existing companies to think differently and acknowledge that the world is changing. And then you have consumers driving the conversation versus the brands. They’re searching and talking about what they care about and who they’re writing to. It’s one thing for me to put out a beautiful ad and if you have to plug it or yours without a recent LGBTQ, I don’t want to call it an ad or a story, which I will send you is one of the most beautiful pieces of branding and story time that you will just cry at the end.
But even then, like from a hard selling, it’s not going to be the power of that ad itself. It’s going to be me telling you and my friends and like all the other who saw it, get the tissues. It’s the power of the voice of the consumer that’s demanding of brands and businesses. So it’s good for business and it’s where that power is shifting a little bit in the marketplace. And then you get the reality check to talk to the Gen Z and Millennials or your kids. We look at the world of gaming, and I never felt so old in my life. Talk to the gamers and the streamers and my own kids now and the universe.
Diana Fryc: You and I have kids that are sort of close in age and I look at them. It’s hard for me not to look at them through a marketer’s lens. Yeah, I am their parent, but every once in a while, they’ll say something and I’m like, oh, okay, I see where this is going or they start doing something and well, I don’t know if we coined it if we picked it up, but we’re calling these kids like the COVID. This generation that is in the middle of this COVID; for it’ll be two or three years by the time all is said and done, had to adapt in the biggest ways of anything that we’ve ever seen. So I personally think they’re going to be the most innovative group that we’ve seen ever and it’s hard to understand how that’s going to be because innovation now across the line is pretty every day, I’m finding something that’s just mind blowing. But it’s interesting how much you’re saying that these big organizations and big companies are really listening to the consumer, maybe. Honestly, for the first time, perhaps it was like, “Yeah, yeah, that’s great. Let’s collect 5000 names about this, and this,” and now it’s like, “Oh, okay, literally let’s listen to them.” That’s fantastic.
Brigette Wolf: And technologies enable that to the social lives; the searches on Google the conversations, you started cycling through the amount of data that’s going on, which is creepy in its own right. But there’s a lot out there that starts telling you of where things are shifting versus the old days.
Diana Fryc: Yes.Well, I’m going to shift just a little bit further into the innovation conversation for just a little bit here. Innovation has been an important part of your career path for the past while and I know one of the questions I wanted to ask you is what kind of innovations or trends are you excited about personally in general, but maybe you might want… Is there anything that you’re excited about happening within your group that you want to just share right now? Like, I’m really excited about this opportunity that we’re moving into?
Brigette Wolf: I’m so excited and I’ll send you a link on our website later of the snacking portfolio. It’s funny. Did you design it for one? I’m like, well, there are days where my daughter has been out there with her resin coast smoothie and her dirt kitchen bag and what I love is the ability to say yes, when you feel so good about the portfolio and doing it in a way with all these big companies of integrity for various legal reasons, but the ethics and morality that’s going behind them is really powerful and being able to empower kids to have a voice and do their thing or to give ourselves more choices. That’s super exciting; both on the business but on a consumer side like how I consume these brands. It’s funny, when you asked and I was thinking about this, you go to technology and the apps;
What is the shopping on my phone to travel and technology and food too. We break jokes about from air fryers and his crock pot and I think in COVID, what can you do? I will say on a tactical basis, I have appreciated I’m not a massive coffee drinker, but my kids know that I’ve been home, I can do my cups on demand and if I want hot water or coffee or tea. I went to help my neighbor the other day, she’s like, do you have a pot of coffee like but I can make you one now if you want. I think the ability to personalize there. What’s interesting, I think in theculture of what’s happening now, which is also interesting, we’ve talked about mindfulness isto the piece that I love the fitness engaging into everything that there is a trend is Amazon’s facility of kindness, and gratitude and mindfulness and nature. They’re brands, now I look on the T-shirts where it’s like your kindness is cool, and all the spirituality. So things that are almost a backlash to some of the hyper materialism and they’re still selling. There’s a language that’s coming out in the world about being bigger than yourself and I think that’s where for business that’s really important about how do we think about not just the cycle of what we do, and we talk about that from, I think you start seeing in the partnerships of industries that, yes, my packaging is recyclable but if there is not an infrastructure in the community of how do you recycle it? Where does it get sorted? Where does it get remade?
I think you’re seeing a lot more collaborations across industry, which is really cool, because then you have the innovation or the technology of how do you jumpstart it. So who is doing the sorting or different ways to get better sorting this, and then reusing it and the up cycling of material? I think those technologies are incredible from your bags and shoes. I think that a lot of times, this is going in a landfill, and that freaks me out [inaudible 00:37:17] I’m so sensitive to it now. So it’s like, what else can you do with it. And I think that’s really a wonderful thing is like where innovation now isn’t just to sell, but it’s to sell and have impact is really incredible. So I think that’s probably where I’m the most excited is to see the innovations there and then some of the discovery and processing in food to make us healthier and cleaner and more affordable. There is still a bit of a pyramid of the premium snacking of well-being. So I think there’s a lot that we can keep pushing.
Diana Fryc: Well, for me that is where the sheer excitement for me is being able to make healthy living affordable, because a good majority of the people that live in the United States, most of whom have the greatest health dietary, health related illnesses are the ones that can’t afford. They can’t afford the healthy products and at the same time, because of where they are financially, they can’t also afford to be sick and yet here they are. Here they are.
Brigette Wolf: COVID, recession, social inequality, we can go down the list there. For us it’s actually an area that we’re exploring and there was an interesting term too, because it was like yeah we know this term food desert. But then someone else said, well, there’s food swamps, so that the only thing that’s there is actually the opposite. It is we’re seeing that how do we help thatis just going to be so critical for us to solve and that is a mass problem. That is not a nice problem to solve.
Diana Fryc: And that is going to require that cross category. Cross category, collaboration, we call it the three seas that you are talking about a little bit earlier, where there’s technology, conduits that are connecting these things together. One of the things I’ll send you a link there’s actually startup in Seattle called Radwell. And Radwell is a recycling platform that collects things that typically can’t go in the recycling program, but there are places that it can be recycled, but it requires you to go there. So they’re the conduit, so every two weeks, we subscribe to it every two weeks. I put in my batteries, I put in my light bulbs, I put in my clothes that are garments that are unwearable, so I can’t take them to a goodwill, my Styrofoam, all those things and they come and they pick them up. It costs like $150 a year.
For them to come 25 times take this and then take all the batteries to the battery place and take all the light bulbs to light bulb place. So it’s growing crazy like crazy here in Seattle, I suspect it’ll grow. But it’s that conduit between the consumer and the beat or whatever. And I think that’s probably where we’ll see a lot of growth here happening.
Brigette Wolf: Yeah, it’s funny, like bag of batteries because it worked. There was a slot that I could drop them in, and we haven’t been in the office. So I’m like I can throw them out and the bags just growing.
Diana Fryc: Sitting there. Yes, Whole Foods used to take that stuff. I don’t think they do that anymore. It’s been a while. But I remember Whole Foods, I used to be able to drop off corks and batteries and light bulbs and all sorts of stuff wires. Anyways, in the years since you’ve left investment banking, and I just want to go back to that because I know it’s a slightly different mindset and you’ve now entered CPG, what has surprised you personally the most about yourself? Whether it’s a leadership thing, or where you’ve just checked in, where you’ve gone?
Brigette Wolf: Yeah, I think there’s the nonlinear. I think when you start out you graduate and maybe less so now for Gen Z that already happened all over the place or anywhere else. But I was still young, I’m Gen X and so came out of like, you kind of find your career and you’re making your money and you go up the ladder and you’ve remade the investment banking. I had always been intrigued by the combining of industries and company in the strategy. I don’t know how I got into it as I got interested in like finance chops and got that there. But I then got back inspired into the consumer, like who do we serve? And I think even then, when I first joined Kraft, it was a linear brand management track that I thought it would have even jumping in different brands, but quite traditional in those paths. And I think what’s been, people say it and it just took a while to kick in have you know, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, but it too wastrying to figure out where you fit in and leveraging your strengths, and we always like to learn and have opportunities for development in the brand.
But there’s something really powerful about leveraging your strengths, and figuring out where they are, while your deficiencies don’t actually become distractions. Like, I still have to work on how I say things diplomatically. But I think they’re my career path from just jumping the scenes and things going into the global role and you just kind of having that world being opened up to me, and really enjoying that and having that passion there, and then moving into formal innovation and then things just kind of parlayed. And it wasn’t always a chance, but it’s the opportunity of how do you grow further, both in your business and as a leader, and as a human? I think like for me, I am probably more mindful, aware of how I impact the organization and others than ever before. And maybe that’s part of growing up to true sovereign leadership of how am I serving others versus how are they serving me in the beginning, you’re kind of in this take learn while I try moving. And I thinkallowing yourself to go through that journey and reflecting on, it’s not always linear, and the growth isn’t always entitle, it’s in a lot more holistic of you as a person and then you have your impact. And that’s kind of amazing to start to feel that you come into your own traits and to say like in that authentic way that you feel like you’re in your right skin and you show up to work the way you’re designed.
Diana Fryc: That’s so amazing to hear. Thank you for saying that. I think it’s so bold when a leader can say I know where my weakness is, I call them weaknesses, it’s whatever your outages, your whatever. But I sometimes think of my own; I myself am sometimes not diplomatic, I’m a little bit on the more direct and then also bombastic side depending on how excited I am. And I have found that I am trying to embrace that and work around it because that’s kind of part of what makes me memorable to the people that I meet that people don’t remember how politically tactful I addressed a challenging conversation. But the fact that I said what I said and it was at the right time at the right moment. I hope that you’re having those moments for yourself as well.
Brigette Wolf: Yeah that’s true.
Diana Fryc: I really thank you so much.
For sharing all of this about you and I’m sure we could go on for a while, but we’re coming up on kind of the end of time and there’s always a couple three questions I’d like to do to kind of wrap everything up. We’ve learned a lot about you at SnackFutures and its role in Mondelez and its importance to you. Maybe I always like to have a little like factoid about either SnackFutures or Mondelez, or snacking or something that people can go, “Oh my Gosh, did you know that?” I don’t know. 5 million people eat Oreos three times a week or so. I don’t know what that might be. Do you have a fun fact?
Brigette Wolf: I think what they say is you could stack Oreos around the world, and it would go how many it is eating around the world several times? We sell billions and billions of Oreos, for the counterpoint 91% of Americans are looking to eat more vegetables, so your Oreos and your vegetable.
Diana Fryc: Hey, there’s some innovation there? Can you do a mash up?
Brigette Wolf: You never know, I’m sneaking something in there.
Diana Fryc: Oh, my goodness. And how are you keeping yourself sane and centered these days?
Brigette Wolf: I discovered paddle boarding. So that was getting up and I’d say wherever you have an opportunity to be in nature, really without a device, that can be for a hike, it could be sitting outside doing yoga or a walk around the lake. And I found that’s a way just to really disconnect and just be what for my own self and time and space. And then you just kind of look around and make different connections that have really helped in breathing and learning how to breathe. And actually, I just heard the other day, it was a great comedy, like when things go goes haywire, it was a great reframe to think like how interesting? The whole week how can we sit back and look at this? It’s like just another puzzle to solve. We’re smart people; we are designed to solve problems and challenges. So now this is just another life’s puzzle and how do we figure that out?
Diana Fryc: And are you going on Lake Michigan? Or where were you finding yourself?
Brigette Wolf: Yeah, I could send pictures people have a hard time believing it’s here because it’s got the horizon of an ocean. But freshwater and no sharks and we’ve been fortunate enough to go where the colors are still changing and it’s just sunrise, it’s calm and you find those moments of quietness, working parents are just working and you’ve got a lot of things to juggle. Find the ‘me’ time like the meaningful ‘me’ time that makes you happy, whether it’s baking or dancing or running, whatever it is. There’s a luxury right now where some of us are stuck where we are. Fuel your soul with it too because winter’s coming.
Diana Fryc: That’s true and there’s more ways than one.
Brigette Wolf: Yeah.
Diana Fryc: Well, tell us before we end if people wanted to connect with you, is LinkedIn your preferred way to connect or do you prefer a different way?
Brigette Wolf: Yeah, that’s probably the easiest and fastest way to connect with me, and then we can go from there.
Diana Fryc: Okay. Well, I thank you so much for your time and thank you so much for the work that you’re doing. I know it seems like a silly thing to thank you for but we need more people that care about more people, and the fact that you’ve got the engine behind you to make a difference in a huge way is a big deal. So thank you for that. And thank you so much for your time, and we look forward to the next time we connect.
Brigette Wolf: This is fine. Thank you so much for having me.
Diana Fryc: Thank you.