Kraft Heinz Begins Culling Marketing Jobs

The Newly Merged Company Is Expected to Keep Close Eye on Costs

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The cost-conscious operators of the new Kraft Heinz Co. have begun eliminating several top marketing positions less than three weeks after the merger was finalized, according to people familiar with the matter.

So far the cuts include some senior level positions, whose responsibilities include shaping marketing and agency relationships. Those departing the company include Tom Bick, senior director-integrated marketing communications and advertising for the Oscar Mayer business; and Kara Henry, senior marketing director, communications and agency relations, according to people familiar with the matter.

A Kraft Heinz spokesman said in an email that "we will decline to comment on rumors or speculation." But several people familiar with the company confirmed the cuts, which appear to be ongoing.

Mr. Bick and Ms. Henry declined to comment.

Mr. Bick is highly regarded in marketing circles, having led innovative ad efforts for Oscar Mayer, including such programs as the "Great American Bacon Barter," in which a comedian traveled penniless across the country trading bacon for essentials. In 2014, Ad Age named Mr. Bick to its "Top Digital Marketers" list in recognition of the campaigns he has overseen that often have included buzzworthy social media components. Oscar Mayer's "Wake Up and Smell the Bacon" campaign -- which involved an alarm clock app that produced a bacon smell -- took home a bronze in the PR category at this year's Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Mr. Bick's departure "will be a huge loss at Kraft because he had a tremendous eye for creative," said one person who has worked with him. "He did great work and he improved return on investment."

Ms. Henry's responsibilities include managing ad-agency relationships. According to her LinkedIn page, she has 25 years of marketing industry experience and is a former account managing director at McGarryBowen, which is a Kraft Heinz agency.

The merger of Kraft Foods Group and H.J. Heinz Co. was orchestrated by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital, which has a reputation for streamlining operations and cutting headcount. In 2013, 3G teamed with Berkshire Hathaway to acquire H.J. Heinz, which has since eliminated some 3,800 positions. The cuts occurred under Heinz CEO Bernardo Hees, who is now the CEO for Kraft Heinz.

The ongoing cuts are a signal that Kraft Heinz is not wasting time as it seeks to reach its stated goal of squeezing $1.5 billion in annual cost savings by the end of 2017. Kraft Heinz previously stated that the company will not have a chief marketing officer. At Kraft, the role had been held on an interim basis by Jane Hilk, who is leaving the company, according to an earlier announcement.

Substantial job cuts seem likely in the coming months as Kraft Heinz prepares to move from its suburban Chicago offices to smaller office space downtown. As Crain's Chicago Business reported last week, Kraft's suburban operations house roughly 2,300 employees spread across roughly 700,000 square feet of office space, while the new downtown office includes 170,000 square feet. The company is co-headquartered in Chicago and Pittsburgh, the longtime home of Heinz.

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