Name: Jos van Wezenbeek
Title: Platform Leader Dairy Based Beverages, Health&Wellness
Drive global category growth through the development of the right marketing mix, innovations and geographical expansion of concepts and best practices in close cooperation with local marketing teams to actively leverage their excellent consumer, shopper and customer knowledge and relationships.
What do you actually do?
Traditionally both Friesland and Campina used to manage their respective businesses on a quite ‘local for local’ basis. After the merger in 2008, FrieslandCampina has become one of the top 5 global players in dairy and feels it should capitalise more on this scale. For that reasons Category Teams were created for each of the so-called Growth Drivers. These teams lead in bundling and aligning resources to create those synergies.
In Dairy Based Beverages (DBB) I am leading a small team of senior marketers. Together with our colleagues from R&D we look for new international business opportunities in the area of Health & Wellness. For the most promising ones, we are responsible for leading the project teams that actually develop the full marketing mix including the physical product and claims from scratch.
Together with our local colleagues we validate the concepts in the relevant regions, stop or optimise them, build the business cases and, once successfully tested, participate in the actual country launch project. For these kinds of high-risk breakthrough projects, our responsibility doesn’t stop with the hand-over to the country. We have to monitor its progress, adjust the mix where needed and make a final call on its market success and ability to be rolled out in other countries. And then, of course, have those markets interested.
As you can see it is a job with many aspects moving from highly strategic to operational, demanding both creativity in the ‘fuzzy front end’ and analytical skills to judge whether a concept is ‘able to make it in the market place. You are working with many departments, external agencies and stakeholders with different interest at various levels. Finding a way to manage all this while not losing track of the goal is challenging but also the beauty of it.
How did you get in?
I studied Business Economics, majoring in marketing and market research, which clearly set the tone of my career.
I had some jobs then in 1998 I was asked to become a marketing director at Danone Netherlands and made my first step into dairy. From my boss I got a simple but challenging objective: “double the relatively small business of Danone-NL in 3 years time”.
Being the small niche player it was in one of the lowest-priced dairy countries in Europe, finding the right strategy was crucial. We looked for the most interesting growth territories in which we could use Danone’s core competences and existing concepts and at the same time were able to avoid head-to-head battles with clear local market leaders Campina and Friesland Foods. We found these areas, started to act, and managed to succeed.
In 2003 I joined Campina, in cheese, trying to grow our low-fat cheese brand, Milner.
Then in 2008 I switched to ‘white dairy’, which is where I am now.
Best bits about your job?
There are many great things in my job. The one I probably love most is to challenge existing thinking and lead new thinking in our organisation on how to accomplish strong, profitable and sustainable growth for this company. Ideally across categories and borders.
But also creating and developing new-to-the-world concepts with multidisciplinary and international teams of highly dedicated and motivated professionals is great.
It sometimes takes much time and energy to have people embrace new thinking, concepts or ways of working. It can sometimes give me the feeling that we lose precious time and money. On the other hand I understand by now that certain things simply take time. Like we say within our company: “Grass won’t grow faster when you start pulling the blades.”
What skills do you use most?
It often starts by using my analytical skills and my imagination. After that, the skills I use most are my communication, influencing and networking skills and the skills to work in a complex multi-disciplinary matrix organisation.
Career highlight so far?
Well at Danone Netherlands and at Campina Cheese I managed to create and implement a vision that quickly delivered high and sustainable profitable growth. One time can be luck, but two times in a row means that apparently I am doing something well!
What’s your advice for someone wanting to work in production and technical?
My most important advice is to keep challenging yourself and others like your colleagues from marketing. Try to be devil’s advocate and dare to ask the obvious questions. Of course you’re not a marketing expert, but for sure you have a lot of common sense. So if the answer doesn’t convince you, don’t think the other is probably right and you just don’t understand his wisdom, but keep challenging.
In my opinion, doubt is good and can be regarded as alarm bells flagging “a possible leak in a concept”. And a concept with a true leak is rarely successful on the market place.
The biggest gain in efficiency and effectiveness any company can make is by optimising the screening of ideas for their business potential. So, do your company a big favour and use your different perspective as an outsider to make things better.
What’s next in your career?
I’ve never been a big career planner. Things came on my path and I either walked around them or embraced them. In my opinion, the new FrieslandCampina is one of the most exciting companies to work for these days because it is big enough to have the resources to play in the ‘major league’, but not so big that everything has been done already.
It is truly international but with its epicentre in Holland. And it is in dairy: One of the most dynamic food and drink categories with ongoing enormous growth opportunities, especially in my area of expertise health and wellness. So instead of thinking about the next step, I simply enjoy getting the most out of my current job, the teamwork and – hopefully – the successes to come.