Ocean Spray Cranberries said it picked Tom Hayes as its next president and chief executive officer, the cooperative said in a statement.
Hayes, the former president and CEO of Tyson Foods, abruptly retired from the meat and poultry processing giant in 2018. He also previously held significant leadership roles at US Foods, Conagra and Kraft. Most recently, Hayes served as a partner at Entrepreneurial Equity Partners, a private equity firm that invests in middle market companies in the food industry.
“Tom’s expertise in supply chain management, his understanding of agriculture and the challenges faced by growers, and his decades of experience in the consumer packaged goods industry make him ideally suited to lead Ocean Spray into its second century,” Peter Dhillon, chairman of the Ocean Spray board of directors, said in a statement.
Ocean Spray went to great lengths in its press release announcing Hayes to tout his previous experience as being a major reason why the cooperative selected him to be its next CEO. In addition to his familiarity of the CPG space following this time at Tyson, Conagra and Kraft, Dhillon said Hayes brings together the ability to communicate with consumers, farmers, grocers, bankers, manufacturers and employees.
That skill to work with a diverse group of entities is especially valuable for Ocean Spray and its 700 farmer owners. The food and beverage space is rapidly changing and Ocean Spray is not immune to many of the challenges and trends impacting it.
While Ocean Spray is best known for its cranberry juice, the cooperative also has dried and fresh fruit, health supplements, sauces, cranberry granola snack clusters, a sparkling cranberry drink and a cran-energy drink. The company’s cranberries are currently featured in more than a thousand products in more than 100 countries worldwide, Ocean Spray said.
Hayes will need to carefully steward a single brand that finds itself in multiple categories throughout the store where market dynamics can differ and competitors in those sections are often times not the same. Hayes’ experience and knowledge of the CPG space could pay off immensely.
One synergy that Ocean Spray has across its portfolio is the health halo attached to cranberries. The popular food has shown health benefits, such as limiting urinary tract infections in women, mitigating gut problems from animal-based diets, delivering powerful antioxidants, reducing bacteria that can cause dental cavities and potentially reducing the incidence of ulcers and cancer. As consumers increasingly look to eat and drink healthier, having a blend of trendy products with a primary ingredient know for being healthy could provide a major boost to Ocean Spray.
Hayes’ arrival at Ocean Spray marks the latest executive appointment in the food and beverage space in recent years that has seen Kraft Heinz, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Hershey, Mondelez International and TreeHouse Foods, among others, name new leaders to oversee their respective enterprises. While little is known why Hayes left Tyson Foods two years ago, on the surface it appears Ocean Spray has tapped into a seasoned industry executive who could help shepherd the 90-year-old company forward.