MARY BETH WEST
EXEC VP-CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER, KRAFT FOODS
Kraft last October named Ms. West, 45, exec VP-chief marketing officer, the apex of a run that's included working for brands ranging from Jell-O to Maxwell House. Before being named CMO, she headed the company's $3 billion beverage business. As president-North American beverage section, Ms. West engineered the relaunch of Maxwell House coffee with 100% Arabica beans and oversaw other iconic brands including Capri Sun, Crystal Light and Kool-Aid. She directed the Tassimo hot-beverage business and guided the On the Go powdered-beverage business to double-digit annual growth rates.
The new CMO wouldn't discuss the significant challenge she faces, but Kraft could use her to duplicate that success on a larger scale as it struggles to boost profitability despite high commodity costs and the waning luster of old brands such as cheese singles and hot dogs. Kraft's first-quarter earnings fell 13%, but the company has promised better results for the second half of this year.
To combat the problem, Kraft has vowed to increase marketing spending. In 2007, its marketing budget hit $2.6 billion, or 8% of total revenue, up from $1.4 billion in 2006, according to Ad Age estimates. Kraft has promised to boost spending again in 2008 to nearly 9% of total revenue.
"Mary Beth brings to the CMO role a consumer-centric approach to business challenges, a passion for breakthrough marketing and a long track record of success in building Kraft brands," says Kraft Chairman-CEO Irene Rosenfeld.
Indeed, Ms. West can tap into wide-ranging experience across the company's product line. Her other jobs at Kraft have included president-U.S. grocery sector; senior VP-meals division; VP-marketing and consumer promotions; VP-business development, North America; and category business director for Jell-O gelatin. Ms. West began her career as associate product manager on Maxwell House in 1986.
Now all these brands are Ms. West's responsibility, and Ms. Rosenfeld says: "I look forward to the contribution she'll make as CMO in helping to restore Kraft to reliable growth."