In a sweeping revamp being put in place today, Nabisco is wiping out a tier of management only a month after Sharon Fordham, the former LifeSavers Co. president, was installed as senior VP-marketing. Gone are Dave Hardie, VP-marketing/sweet snacks, and Bob Wallach, VP-marketing/savory snacks.
The company said it's reshaping its business from a focus on cookies and crackers separately to one of viewing its portfolio of brands by user occasion.
BASED ON USAGE
"We can no longer manage our portfolio strictly on the definition of `what is a cookie' and `what is a cracker,' " Ms. Fordham said. "Our goal is to combine the strengths of our cookie and cracker portfolios where it makes sense, and market them according to consumer usage."
She said, for example, that it makes sense to group Ritz Bits with Barnum's Animal Crackers because, even though they are a cracker and a cookie, respectively, they're both for kids.
Ms. Fordham boosted two top lieutenants from LifeSavers to new posts at Nabisco. Tom Hernquist, VP-marketing at LifeSavers, takes that title at the biscuit division. Norma Larkin, formerly director of marketing services at LifeSavers, becomes senior director-integrated marketing, biscuit division.
SALES DROP 1%
The shifts come only days after the biscuit unit reported first-quarter sales of $850 million, down 1% from a year ago after adjusting for extra selling days. That comes on top of the $3.54 billion unit showing a sales slide of 4% for the year ended Dec. 31.
Nabisco "hasn't been well-managed," said Bill Leach, analyst with DLJ Securities. "SnackWell's is in free fall, the sales force has been a disappointment and they are letting Keebler take away share."
Nabisco has wasted no time in making changes under new biscuit division President Rick Lenny, who took over for the ousted Jim Postl in February, and Jim Kilts, the Nabisco Holdings Corp. president-CEO who replaced John Greeniaus late last year.
Mr. Hardie's exit, in particular, has raised some eyebrows, since his responsibility did not extend to SnackWell's, the brand blamed for much of Nabisco's woes. Several brands under his care -- Oreo, Chips Ahoy! and Nutter Butter -- were singled out as having "posted good sales increases behind increased marketing spending" in Nabisco's annual report.
"My position is being eliminated. It's not performance-related," said Mr. Hardie, a two-year Nabisco veteran who has worked at Borden and Procter & Gamble Co. "I am proud of the results of my businesses."
Mr. Wallach couldn't be reached for comment.
CAREY LEAVING NABISCO
Separately from the restructuring, Vicki Carey, business director-cookies, is leaving Nabisco and is believed to be joining Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
A Nabisco spokeswoman said the changes won't affect assignments at its ad agencies, currently arranged along category lines. McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, has crackers and Foote, Cone & Belding, cookies.
But observers said they wouldn't be surprised to see changes. Both Messrs. Kilts and Lenny are from Kraft Foods, and agency executives said Kraft shops have been circling Nabisco.
Contributing: Jeff Jensen