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July, 2024

McCain scoops up Chobani’s growth leader for new marketing director of growth as MD hunts what consumers want next, refires flagging QSR

What you need to know:

  • Eight months into her tenure as MD of McCain Australia, Lyn Radford is plotting a course to reshape the business to build brand stature as well as find new sources of sustainable growth.
  • Among her first steps are appointing former Chobani GM of growth, Olivia Dickinson, as marketing director of growth, tasked with understanding what consumers want next – then meeting those expectations.
  • Structure follows strategy in Radford’s book, and she has flagged more change could be on the way as she works out her plans for the privately-owned business in ANZ.
  • Softening economic conditions meanwhile are taking their toll particularly on McCain’s B2B channel, and Radford cites guest counts down across most QSR and foodservice operators as consumers tighten their belts.
  • Recent steps made by McCain to enhance its product range include the acquisition of the Strong Roots brand globally, as well as its SureCrisp fries – adding even more to the quality of what Radford describes as ‘sticks of joy’.

As a managing director, one of my goals is to build on McCain's strong brand presence in Australia. Aussies love McCain and we want to continue to build on that love across our entire portfolio of products.

Lyn Radford, MD, McCain ANZ

Eight months into her tenure as chief of McCain Australia, Lyn Radford knows current strategy and structure isn’t going to provide innovations that will drive sustainable growth and meet future consumer needs. So as part of her plans to reshape the local business, she’s recruited former Chobani GM of growth, Olivia Dickinson, to the newly created role of marketing director of growth.

Most people know McCain for our delicious fries, or ‘sticks of joy’ as I like to call them, but we are so lucky to also have a wide range of products including pizzas, appetizers, ready meals, not to mention our famous vegetables range. Recently, we acquired the Strong Roots brand globally, adding even more to our lineup,” Radford tells Mi3. “The reason we’ve created the marketing director of growth role is to focus on exploring what consumers want next. This new role will help us understand and meet those needs across all our products, ensuring McCain continues to grow and innovate.” 

Dickinson is making the switch to McCain from Chobani, where she spent the last three years as the first GM of growth focused on spearheading product innovations and business evolution. It was a move designed to rejuvenate growth momentum in the local market, which had begun stagnating then declining in 2020 after an initial fast-growth spurt.

In all, she spent seven years with the yoghurt maker, working initially in marketing before taking up leadership of the newly formed growth team. The division sat alongside a demand function, which incorporated marketing, sales and category.

As reported by Mi3 last week, Dickinson’s departure from Chobani comes as its newly installed chief, Scott Hadley, works to reset the foundations of the business and is restructuring his teams to suit.

Dickinson is one of several ex-Chobani senior managers and leaders to join McCain Foods over the last year. Notably, her former colleagues include Radford, who resigned as MD of Chobani Australia to become MD of McCain Australia in October last year. Radford previously spent three-and-a-half years as the chief of Chobani Australia, rising from GM of sales, category management and supply planning to COO then the top job over a 12-year tenure with the FMCG.

In May, Chobani’s former head of new product and packaging, John Williams, also departed Chobani after more than nine years working across marketing, new products and innovation to become R&D manager at McCain Foods.

Dickinson tells Mi3 a big part of her decision to switch yoghurt for pizzas and vegetables was a desire to get back into her core heartland of marketing. But she was also impressed at the size and stature of the McCain business, which remains in private ownership.

“McCain is one of those brands you know it as a household name and really huge brand but the global CMO summed it up best when she says to me, ‘McCain is the biggest smallest company from an industry perspective no one knows about’. That really resonated with me,” says Dickinson.

“When you scratch under the surface, you see all the brilliant work they’re doing. I wasn’t really aware of it until I went digging and had these really great conversations.”

Dickinson sees McCain at an inflection point in the market. “The business has been around for half a century and established really strong equity in terms of the brand component. But there’s so much future potential on where the brand can go,” she continues.

“With Lyn and her vision as well and what she loves to do, which is to disrupt and innovate and anticipate the needs of tomorrow, there’s really a transformational piece of work to be done. It’s quite exciting.”

Sitting on the senior leadership team, Dickinson’s portfolio covers all products excluding potato products. The range includes frozen pizzas, vegetables and meals.

For Dickinson, another drawcard is being able to work once more with Radford. She describes her as “as a great example of a business leader who has quite progressive, modern business views, particularly when it comes to a relationship between a CEO and CMO and how they can drive high growth and impact together”.

“What Lyn is brilliant at is galvanising a business, from a strategic perspective, around that plan for growth,” Dickinson says. “There is scope to relook at the total portfolio, acknowledge all the past successes, but then build on that for future performance as well. There’s a lot of opportunity in terms of what we can do from a brand portfolio, innovation and category perspective certainly.”  

Dickinson also knows she has a distinctive asset on her hands with ‘Ah McCain you’ve done it again’, which hasn’t been as prevalent in the brand’s work in recent years.

“So many know this – it doesn’t matter if they’re kids or adults,” she says. “I think on the 30-year anniversary that’s something worth thinking about – the nostalgia this brand has is huge.”

McCain is one of those brands you know it as a household name and really huge brand but the global CMO summed it up best when she says to me, ‘McCain is the biggest smallest company from an industry perspective no one knows about’. That really resonated with me.

Olivia Dickinson, marketing director of growth, McCain ANZ

McCain’s plans for sustainable growth

McCain has about 1,500 employees across five sites in ANZ. The Australian division of McCain was established in in 1968, initially importing French fries from oversea before beginning to grow potatoes locally in Daylesford, Victoria in 1970. Since then, McCain has expanded into pizza production with a plant in Ballarat, Victoria and now has a range covering potato, veggies, meals, pizza and snacks and an artisan pizza range. In the frozen and chilled pizza category, worth some $479.1m, McCain claims the highest market share locally.

Globally, McCain Foods Limited has more than 21,000 employees and 52 production facilities, generating annual sales over CDN$9 billion (A$9.79bn).

“As a managing director, one of my goals is to build on McCain’s strong brand presence in Australia. Aussies love McCain and we want to continue to build on that love across our entire portfolio of products,” Radford says. “Our strategy is to deepen this connection by enhancing all aspects of our product offerings. Anticipating future consumer needs is crucial for sustained growth. Innovation will play a key role in this, ensuring we continue to meet and exceed expectations across our entire range of offerings. This approach not only strengthens our position in the market but also sets the foundation for long-term success.”

Radford hinted at further structural changes as she plots the course. “I’m a firm believer that structure follows strategy and as a team we are currently working on refreshing our longer-term ambition and strategy right now. Once we have clarity on this, we will work through what our focus areas are and resource them appropriately,” she says.

Among recent innovations Radford is particularly proud of are SureCrisp fries, designed to prevent soggy fries ever again, even in a delivery.

“Our recent Rustica Pizza launch has also performed really well and is becoming a household favourite amongst those who have tried it. We have some great launches about to hit market now with our Pickers Appetizer range which is a whole new category for McCain and our Air fryer fries and Veggie fries are about to hit shelves too so we can’t wait to see how these perform,” Radford continues.

QSR pitstop slowdown

However, McCain isn’t immune to consumer challenges persisting in the softer economic climate. It’s particularly affecting the business’ out of home channel, with guest counts down across most of QSR and foodservice operators, Radford says.

“People are tightening the purse strings and eating out less which is impacting volumes. Our role in this scenario is twofold: To continue supporting our OOH channels, which we are doing via our current advertising campaign on McCain SureCrisp which is helping to drive traffic to our partner outlets as well as assisting consumers and families who are cutting back on QSR visits by offering McCain branded products in retail,” Radford says.

“Our portfolio of products, many of which are inspired by OOH experiences, enhance in-home experiences, fostering connections with friends, housemates and family delivering value and delight both in and out of the home.”

On a personal level, understanding the complexities of McCain’s agriculture operations has “been eye-opening” for Radford in her first months as MD.

“Meeting our growers, customers across all channels, and visiting our five factories allowed me to see firsthand the dedication behind our products. From here on, it is about building on and strengthening the great foundations that are in place and then unlocking the market potential of our products, ensuring we respond to the needs of consumers and do so in a sustainable way, with food integrity at the core,” she adds.

In addition to Radford’s appointment at a leadership level, McCain recently promoted its Canadian CFO, Pierre Danet, to regional president APACSA.