June is World Oceans Month, a global movement to call on world leaders to protect 30% of our blue planet by 2030 – a focus on conservation and sustainability. Jan Tharp, the CEO of the Bumble Bee Seafood Company joins me to discuss their leadership and how seafood sustainability is evolving.
Welcome to Lost in the Supermarket. The podcast that takes you behind the shelves and looks at the innovation and issues of our food world. June is World Ocean's Month, a global movement to call on world leaders to protect 30% of our blue planet by the year 2030, a focus on conservation and sustainability. Joining me is one of those global leaders. Jan Tharp, the CEO of the Bumble Bee Seafood Company. Jan, today you're making a formal announcement on Bumble Bee's new commitments to sustainability. Hey, got to tell you that's perfect timing. But before we get to that announcement, I've been in the food world, my entire life. In fact, my grandfather is a dairy farmer and one insight I would love to hear from you is what takes a leader to succeed, to become a success in today's world. And how has that changed from years ago?Jan:
Yeah. Thanks Phil. I think that when you looked at being a leader in the seafood sector, I'm not sure that it's that much different than being a leader anywhere else. At the end of the day, you need to listen and respect other people and make them feel like their opinion matters. And so whether you're talking about employees, customers, or consumers, really what most people want is to be listened to and they want their voices heard. And I think really what makes a good leader today is someone who is able to listen and reflect. And, and again, that touches everybody, whether you're talking about employees, customers, or consumers or consumers needs, they want CPG companies to understand what their needs are and develop products around. Those needs. Same thing with our customers. Our customers have needs with respect to retailing, and they want us to hear what they're saying and address those needs. It also plays out in our employee engagement. Our employees want to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. And so I think as leaders, if we can take a step focus in, on listening and learning and being authentic in our response, that really makes for a great company . And it makes for a great day company, whether you're talking about employees, customers, or consumers.Phil:
So Jan, what has been some of the biggest challenges that you've faced as a leader?Jan:
Well, Phil , you can imagine where our 120 year old company, and a lot of what we have is ingrained in our procedures and policies and the way we think about the business. And as we move forward, we know that what got us here is it what what's going to take us into the future? And so to move and pivot this huge organization into a different way of thinking, it was a significant challenge. That's what we had to do is come together. Re-establish where we were headed and then develop a roadmap to get there. And we started with redeveloping, our North star, and we call that our mission and vision work. And part of that, it was a cultural enhancement, getting everybody grounded, the DNA of Bumble Bee, who we were, what got us here and where we wanted to go. And that learning really brought us together with this unified group of core values that operate how we work today. The second piece was on the consumer side, our products as relevant to the consumer that they needed. So we had to change that yeah . From an operational and trade mindset to a consumer and culinary mindset. And so we brought in a lot of outside rockstar talent that is extremely adept and understanding consumer needs talking to the consumer and helping us develop products that the consumers really want, and, and marketing products in a way that really highlights the benefits of our shelf stable products. We have fantastic product they're right on trend with respect to high protein, low fat high in a maker's nutritious. And , and a lot of that has been lost over the years. And so we needed to figure out how we hi. Yeah . Uh , and I will say that the momentum is there. We are already putting points on the board and we are extremely excited about our future.Phil:
So Jan, you know, there's no question that for 120 years, bumblebee has been an iconic brand, but talking about our icons, you've redesigned your packaging and retired Horatio, Bumble Bees, longtime mascot. But along the way, your new package has won a ton of design awards. How is Horatio taking this? And what did you believe it was time for a change?Jan:
Yeah, I think Horatio was really excited about his retirement and , and I know he's happy. He is, he might be playing pickleball with the California raisins right now, but I know he's looking at what we're doing and he is very, very excited about it. Uh , he served us well as we move forward, we really want to yeah . And our product attributes and make our product attributes front and center. And so when you talk about what's important to today's consumer low high protein, low fat Amigos, all of the attributes that make our product a super food , um , Horatio again, he served as well, but I don't think he brings out product attributes the way our new packaging. So COVID-19 no question about it has changed the food world and the supermarket in a heartbeat. What was the effect on bumblebee and your supply chain COVID-19 impacted the whole globe. And certainly it impacted our supply chain as well. We saw significant surge in demand in March and April. And we mobilized wait between our corporate office, our factories putting in new systems, personal protection . Yeah. Equipment changing our protocols really ? Yeah . Oh , of ensuring that we could get us yeah . To us and Canadian customers as possible. And so what that meant is we had to adjust some of our schedules and , and run products that that would move through our facility quicker than others, just to get through that surge in demand. We were excellent about communications, both with our , we changed things , pick up anything that we could do to smooth out that's supply chain. During that surge , we did , uh , we were extremely, we thought about our employees first with respect to how we could bring them into the facility. And we've been extremely successful. Cool . Over the last 90 days and reacting to the surgeon demands . I now want to focus on today's announcement. I know the Bumble Bee was one of the leaders in the formation of the international seafood sustainability foundation, way back in 2009, as well as many other initiatives from that point forward. What can you tell me that you're doing that's new. We're really proud of what we've done in the past. And today is all about setting expectations or the future. And when we talk about the future, we're talking about a future that may be 50 or a hundred years from now. And that is so important when you're talking about precious resource, such as the ocean and ocean health. One of the things that we deal with, obviously sustainability is a very , it is as big as the ocean itself. As we try to break that's out into pieces that people can understand. One of the things that we're doing that we're very excited about is the launch $40 million accelerator fund . And the purpose of that fund over the next five years is to tackle some of these complex issues in sustainability as they relate two , Oh, now we all want a greener, I guess, in your case, it's more appropriate to say bluer world. Can you some facts with me about why this initiative is just so important? You know , when you look at the facts around the ocean, it represents 70% of the surface area of the earth. It regulates our climate and weather patterns. It produces half of the amount of oxygen and the world. When you look at it from a people perspective, three , I feel young well around the globe , seafood protein for their livelihoods , 200 million people rely on the fishing industry for their livelihood . So there isn't one living being that doesn't need this one ocean and protecting , it really becomes part of our core and one of our most important, so consumers as they walk up and down the supermarket shelves today than ever before, they want to know that the farmer and the fishermen are all being treated well. What is Bumble Bee doing to meet those needs? People in our supply chain are paramount. And I think a great example of that is in our Anova, which is food service, yellow tail , and one of the Oh, done , because we were the first village and Donisha , but we didn't stop there. So in addition to fair trade fishing company, to implement blockchain technology from the small, and then Asian villages, all the way to the consumers wait in restaurants across North America. So don't be upset with me. But when I look at the changes that supermarkets are taking place, a lot of it is revolving around plant based. They're putting up special section, that's lining the supermarket shelves. How does Bumble pink play in that kind of space? You might find this surprising, but we embrace this space. And when you look at, we talked earlier about sustainability. When you look at the facts , that's the world population rolling , and it will hit, okay . There is no one answer. There is no one silver bullet to get where we need to be. And so Bumble Bee, absolutely embraces technology and innovation that helps for 10 , the ocean and all that rely on it. And Bumble Bee was major seafood company to partner catch and a distribution agreement to distribute. And we welcomed that innovation, it , consumers are looking for it. We would also embrace, we would embrace aquaculture . I think it's something that we need to be open to any technology or any innovation that helps us sustain growth without impacting the investment ?Phil:
Jan, I want to thank you for your time and your leadership in this very important industry and sharing your insights with us today on Lost in the supermarket.