The Kraft Heinz Company was formed in 2015 by the reverse takeover of iconic North American food group Kraft by investor-controlled HJ Heinz. It had already been quite some time since the Heinz brand had the 57 varieties championed by its long-running slogan. In fact there are now closer to 570, even if the one most people think of is flagship brand Heinz Ketchup (backed up in the UK by its Baked Beans, of course or Salad Cream). Even before the Kraft deal around two-thirds of sales were generated by products that don't use the Heinz name. In 2013, the group accepted a private buyout (for $28bn) by investment group 3G Capital and billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. In March 2015, those investors negotiated an even bolder deal to merge Heinz with rival Kraft. That created a group with an extensive collection of products; not just sauces and spreads, cold meats, ready meals and cheese, but also coffee, beverage mixes, baby food, frozen potatoes, even tinned tuna in some markets. In addition to the wide-ranging Kraft and Heinz masterbrands, the portfolio also includes such icons as Oscar Mayer meats, Amoy soy sauce, Ore-Ida potato products, Kool-Aid drink mixes, Philadelphia and Velveeta cheese spreads, Planters nuts, Plasmon and Farley's baby foods, Maxwell House coffee and Grey Poupon mustard. Household names every one, but also mature brands with comparatively little room for additional growth. Co-owner 3G's traditional strategy - already tested on previous purchases AB InBev and Burger King - of trimming costs and expenses to the bone rather than investing in innovation quickly resulted in a dramatic slowdown in performance. Revenues and profits have both suffered sharp declines and between 2018 and 2019 the group wrote off a staggering $16bn of impairment charges against its portfolio. There was an abrupt overhaul of the management team, including the appointment of new CEO Miguel Patricio who has been tasked with delivering a quick turnaround. That has been slow to materialise. In 2020, the group reported revenues of $26.2bn. That was up on the year before but still within the narrow band of between $25bn and $26.3bn in which Kraft Heinz has been trapped since 2016. After a $1.9bn profit in 2019, net income plunged to $356m as a result of another massive $3.4bn impairment charge, much against foodservice operations in North America and retail operations in Canada. Condiments and sauces, led by Heinz Ketchup, accounted for more than a quarter of sales, and cheese and dairy products for a further fifth. Despite the merged group's wider global footprint, almost three-quarters of revenues are still generated in the US.
Capsule checked 10th October 2019
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Adbrands Daily Update 12th Feb 2021: As had been rumoured for the past week, Kraft Heinz confirmed an agreement to sell the Planters snack nut and mix brand to Hormel, owner of Skippy peanut butter among other brands. The price tag is $3.3bn, roughly three times the brand's annual sales. The deal includes three factories in Arkansas, Virginia and California.
Adbrands Daily Update 22nd Jan 2021: "Draw Ketchup". In reality, the world has plenty of tomato ketchup brands to choose from, but most of us can think of only one. Canadian agency Rethink seized upon that simple truth with this elegant little film for Heinz; proof if ever we needed it that Heinz Tomato Ketchup is the Kleenex or the Hoover of the food world, a brand so famous that it is practically a generic emblem in its own right.
Adbrands Daily Update 16th Sep 2020: In a further realignment of its portfolio, Kraft Heinz agreed to sell a large part of its heritage North American cheese portfolio to French company Lactalis. Products being transferred include the company's Kraft-branded natural shredded and block cheeses as well as Breakstone's, Cracker Barrel and some other smaller brands. Combined sales for the products being sold to Lactalis were around $1.8bn last year; the French company will acquire them for $3.2bn. Kraft Heinz will retain the Philadelphia, Velveeta and Cheez Whiz brands as well as processed Kraft Singles.
Adbrands Daily Update 12th Aug 2019: Kraft Heinz wrote down the value of its brands for the second time in six months, reflecting continuing poor performance for the first half of 2019. "The level of decline we experienced in the first half of this year is nothing we should find acceptable moving forward," said CEO Miguel Patricio. "We have significant work ahead of us to set our strategic priorities and change the trajectory of our business." The company took impairments of another $1.2bn on top of the shock $15bn write-off in February. The company's stock price has tumbled by almost half since then. "We've been too focused on the present and literally on firefighting," Patricio told investors. "We need to work on our competencies for the future." Net sales fell 5% in the first half to $12.4bn while net income more than halved to $854m. The organic decline excluding currencies and disposals was -2.0% globally, with the worst performance in the EMEA region and the US.
Adbrands Social Media 17th Jun 2019: "Ed's Heinz Ad". Who needs social media influencers when the world's most successful recording artist already professes an undying love for your product? Ed Sheeran even has the Heinz Ketchup logo tattooed on his arm, and it's a sign of just what a down-to-earth guy he still is that he actually approached Kraft Heinz off his own bat with a proposal for an ad for his favourite sauce. Who in their right mind is going to turn down an offer like that? Here it is, and it's pretty damn great. It's hard to know how much is pure Ed and how much the advertising craft of agency David, but the finished results are delightful. Nice one, Ed! A new career awaits if you ever get fed up with the music business.
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