Corporate Strategy: Noble Foods

How to engage people in making your growth strategies a success?

Corporate strategies for growth can be as dry as dust and confined to the board. Companies should describe them simply and involve everyone in delivering them.

Context

Noble Foods are the leading supplier of fresh eggs to the major retailers and pride themselves on excellent nationwide service from modern, well-invested packing centres. Each week they individually grade, pack and deliver over 72 million eggs. Eggs come from independent egg farms, many with hens and feed supplied by Noble, and from company-owned farms.

Noble Foods believe that innovation in eggs is essential, which is the crucial foundation of their vision: We bring eggs to life.

2009 saw the launch of the Happy Egg Co., now the UK’s leading egg brand. The branded portfolio includes One Good Egg and Eggs for Soldiers. Noble works in close collaboration with key customers to create added value propositions under their retailer brand. For example, the Sainsbury’s Woodland Egg brand donates 1p per pack to the Woodland Trust, which plants new trees across the UK.

Throughout its history, Noble Foods had not clearly articulated its business strategy so that staff, customers and the public could understand what the business was trying to do beyond just packing and selling eggs. The company decided that significant growth could not happen unless people understood and were part of exactly how it intended to grow.

Creative Facilitation

People think that workshops are where ideas happen. For this to be true, the quality of preparation is the key and the best preparation is journalistic questioning of key stakeholders.

David Walsh (the journalist who successfully pursued Lance Armstrong) tells a story that sums up his (and our) approach. His son was about to play his part as one of the three kings in his primary school nativity play. Instead of saying his line he raised his arm and asked ‘please Miss – what happened to the gold?’ That’s journalistic questioning – the refusal to take things at face value in the hunt for the truth.

We asked the individuals in the Noble leadership team ten questions, including:

  • What are the biggest internal barriers to success? Why do they exist?
  • If you were a competitor to Noble, what would you do to outperform Noble?
  • Which single thing will most affect Noble’s performance over the next five years?
  • If you could make one change by magic, what would it be?

The answers to these questions enabled us to define the central challenge for the first workshop:

  • How to turn a decent business into a spectacular one?

We worked with the team to translate their thinking about how to meet this challenge into big, simple growth pillars that were understandable by everybody.

Result

Noble Foods’ six growth pillars are shaping the future success of the business:

  • Drive cost efficiency
  • Go beyond egg
  • Develop leading brands
  • Leverage our expertise
  • Grow our market
  • Build our talent

Two years after the growth pillars were cascaded throughout the company pre-tax profits were up by 30% compared with the previous twelve months.