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Finding leaders to drive transformation Finding leaders to drive transformation
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April 11, 2017

Finding leaders to drive transformation

Client: Ready Pac Foods, Inc.

The engagement

When newly appointed CEO Tony Sarsam was charged with transforming Ready Pac, he engaged Acertitude to help him build a turnaround team that would power the fresh food giant to become the industry leader.

“Finding and empowering the right talent has propelled Ready Pac’s extraordinary transformation.”

Tony Sarsam, CEO, Ready Pac Foods, Inc.

The challenge

Since its founding, Ready Pac has striven to lead innovation in the fresh-cut foods industry, but by 2007, the business reality did not match the company’s 45-year legacy. Behind the curtain, the company was shrinking.

Even after partnering with private equity firm Bayside Capital to infuse capital into the enterprise, the company experienced six years of declining growth and negative EBITDA. The timing to execute a turnaround was imminent. 

In the fall of 2013, Tony Sarsam was appointed CEO to reinvent Ready Pac Foods. His aim: transform and grow Ready Pac into a sophisticated CPG leader in the fast-growing, $26 billion fresh foods market.

Building on a 20-year career in executive leadership with Nestlé and PepsiCo, Tony knew from experience that one of the most important strategic elements of a broad-scale change initiative would be building a world-class leadership team. 

The solution

Tony identified the need to recruit four C-suite executives right away, along with a team of executive change agents across all disciplines of the business. Ideal targets would be leaders known for driving transformation in brand-driven consumer businesses, which requires ongoing product innovation and supply chain management expertise.

We sought transformers — resourceful, dynamic, and resilient people capable of and energized by the iterative and challenging process of “building the bicycle while riding it” — including:  

  • Chief Human Resources Officer
  • Chief Financial Officer
  • Chief Supply Chain Officer
  • Chief General Counsel
  • Vice President of Continuous Improvement
  • Vice President of Environmental, Health & Safety
  • Vice President of Engineering & Maintenance
  • Vice President of Procurement

With the perspective that we were building a team — not filling positions — we put intense focus on ensuring the new leaders would work synergistically to realize change. The “fit” could not be underestimated.

We invested significant effort to understand the business, culture, and people. We visited Ready Pac facilities, engaged with team members face-to-face, and enhanced our firsthand insights into the industry and the firm’s competitive positioning through robust, original research.

With a strong recruiting strategy and elevator pitch in hand, we went to market armed and focused. Our message resonated with target candidate pools, allowing us to recruit top talent from world-class organizations and Fortune 500 companies.

Our interview approach was also uniquely structured to fit the engagement. With a lineup of finalists for multiple roles, we arranged interviews into two intensive two-day sessions. Having everyone on-site simultaneously saved our client valuable time and gave decision makers insight into how different candidates fit together.

The impact

  • Under management of the reinforced executive team, revenue growth has climbed +10% YOY compared with a declining top line of -6% over the preceding six years. The new leaders have also expanded Ready Pac’s profit margin by 500 basis points.
  • Operating costs were reduced by $20 million over 18 months and company injuries decreased by 50% over 18 months. The chief supply chain officer was instrumental in leading and driving these improvements through his team.
  • CHRO transformed human resources activities into a high-performing business function and helped define the unique Ready Pac culture by spearheading multiple initiatives:
    • Established a wage authority process for manufacturing plants
    • Established a performance review process for all management
    • Established a complete suite of employee recognition, the Circle of Excellence
    • Together with marketing and communications, aligned the team companywide
  • Acertitude was rehired for over 40 engagements as the exclusive executive search partner to Ready Pac. We believe client loyalty is a true testament to the value we provide.
  • Ready Pac completed a remarkable business transformation and was acquired by Bonduelle, the world leader in ready-to-use vegetables, in March 2017. The deal, worth $409 million, benefits Ready Pac through increased investment and extended geographic reach, helping drive its vision for continued growth. 

Our work has helped ignite Ready Pac’s potential and provided the foundation for a lucrative future in this fast-growing fresh food industry. After a remarkable turnaround, transformation, and growth period, the company is on course toward its next level of success as part of the Bonduelle Group.

Home of the original Bistro Bowl® complete meal salad, Southern California–based Ready Pac Foods has been giving people the freedom to eat healthier for nearly 50 years as a premier producer of convenience fresh foods and fresh-cut produce. With processing facilities throughout the United States, Ready Pac Foods manufactures a complete range of products featuring fresh produce and protein under the company’s Bistro®, Ready Snax®, Cool Cuts®, and elev?te™ brands. Offerings include fresh-cut salads, fruits, vegetables, snacking, and complete meals available in stores and restaurant chains across North America.