It was back in early ‘70s and most often, right after school. That’s when every able-bodied kid on my block huddled together. Each one stuck a foot into the middle and then one kid (certainly a leader among us) used a mathematical process to determine who would be “it” in the next game of freeze tag.
Hunched over in the center of the circle, our leader tapped every kid’s foot and the selection process began, “One potato, two potato, three potato, four …”
I’m thinking about this - having just written about a “hot” potato company. In my book, ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston is “it” right now, a company deserving everyone’s attention. And perhaps it’s best to momentarily freeze and take note of how this $2 billion-plus unit of ConAgra Foods Inc. has grown in every respect.
Having followed this industry since 1990, I can tell you that - similar to a few other strong competitors in the field - Lamb has had quite a presence and strategy in the foodservice potato business. But that’s not what’s most important here.
What is important is that - during times like these - companies not rest on yesterday’s game plan.
“The biggest issue on everybody’s mind today is inflation,” admits Lamb Weston President Jeff DeLapp. “Being this close to the point of production on the agriculture side of the food business, inflation in some ways is a reflection of the cost of growing a crop. It’s a big deal. It tests everything: your brand strength, your customer relationships, your engineering team and their ability to compensate for inflationary effects. The amplitude and number of inflationary impacts is so big that I don’t think anybody in the food industry has been able to completely accommodate it.”
He continues, “You have to look at your business model and say, ‘Do we have the right customer relationships?’ ‘Can we be more strategic with our customers and our input providers?’ In a way, it has helped us redefine our business model. We have become more strategic both at the customer level and the input level, which is a great thing. The food industry has been so cyclical for so long, you could be a player without a strategy. I don’t think that’s the case today.”
As you’ll read in this month’s feature, Lamb Weston recast its strategic plan by revitalizing its executive team, reinforcing its raw material and production capabilities, and refocusing its innovation around consumer insights and entirely new product platforms.
I would encourage every reader to follow this example and basically - take your “game” as it were - to a higher level. Just like in my neighborhood pick-up game, you never want to be tagged “out” and be forced to retreat to the sidelines.