WHO IS 'Douglas R. Conant'

Douglas R. Conant is best-known for his decade-long tenure as the president, CEO and one of the directors of the Campbell Soup Company. He is also a board member of the restaurant chain Applebee's and former chairman of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

BREAKING DOWN 'Douglas R. Conant'

Douglas Conant has spent his entire career working for prepackaged foods companies.

He was born in Chicago and earned his undergraduate degree and MBA from Northwestern University. He then joined General Mills, where he joined the marketing department in 1976. In 1989 he moved to Kraft, where as vice president of strategy, he developed innovative marketing campaigns. 

In 1992 he joined Nabisco Foods Company, where he would rack up several accomplishments. First, he and his team successfully rebranded Newton cookies, and ended up doubling the volume of sales. Using his marketing skills, he also helped launch Snackwells, a category of snacks for health conscious buyers: by 1993, several Snackwells brands reached $100 million in sales.

These coups led to him winning the top spot at Campbell's in 2001. Despite being the world's largest soup company (its red-and-white can an icon of American manufacturing) Campbell's market share was falling, and its soup division  – along with several of its other prepackaged food brands, including Prego and Pepperidge Farm – needed some fresh ingredients.

It got them in Conant. He began by replacing much of the management team. He then reconfigured the portfolio, cut costs, revolutionized the culture (enhancing diversity and inclusion practices) and made integral strategic investments.  The company's market value rose, and shareholder returns improved steadily, putting Campbell's back in the top tier of the international food industry.

Conant retired from Campbell's in 2011.

Life After Soup

Conant wasn't quite finished with the corporate world, however.  From 2013-2016, he served as chairman of Avon Products, establishing a new headquarters in London and overseeing the sale of the North American division to a private equity group. He was also a board member of the restaurant chain Applebee's and chairman of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

He also founded and heads ConantLeadership, a consultancy dedicated to improving the quality of leadership and management. Continuing his role as a champion of "leadership that works," Conant also serves as chairman of the Kellogg Executive Leadership Institute (KELI) at Northwestern University, chairman of CECP (The CEO Force for Good), a member of the board of directors at AmerisourceBergen, and chairman of the Higher Ambition Leadership Institute (HALI) in Boston. He is co-author of the book TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments.

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