Interview with chairman designate

Chairman

Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi
Chairman designate

Read more about our response to Covid-19 in our Sustainability report

    In his CEO review, Noel Doyle suggests that Tiger Brands is at a “critical inflection point”. We are in the midst of a pandemic with a deep recession likely, and the company is under pressure to deliver a significant turnaround; you’ve certainly chosen an interesting time to join Tiger Brands’ board. How do you see the company being positioned in the next 10 years and your role in taking it forward?

It’s early days for me to outline how the company should be positioned over the next 10 years, but I will share some initial general thoughts on this. In terms of my role, I am not going to do any of this alone. As with any successful company, we will be acting collectively, leveraging our various skills and resources to ensure we protect Tiger Brands’ long-term interests, recognising that its ability to create value for itself is ultimately dependent on the value it creates for its stakeholders, society and the broader environment. As chairman, I will be operating within a board that acts collectively in fulfilling our oversight and stewardship function, holding the executive to account on both the development and execution of strategy.

Looking at the company and its prospects, I agree with Noel that Tiger Brands is at an important inflection point, and this makes it a particularly interesting and exciting time to be taking on the challenge. After several years of disappointing performance, the company and its management team are understandably under pressure to deliver a visible change in fortune, and they recognise the urgent need to turn the company around. And as Noel points out in his statement, the leadership team needs to do so in a manner that delivers sufficiently compelling change over a short period, but not at the expense of longer-term growth, a challenging balancing act at the best of times.

For Tiger Brands to rise to this challenge, not only does it need to recover its former position, but it needs to be far more ambitious and audacious in delivering on its core purpose.

You asked about the next 10 years. This is also the timeframe for delivering on the global Sustainable Development Goals, food security is a foundation to delivering on all the SDGs. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown up the fault lines in society and highlighted in particular some of the deep challenges around inequality, including specifically in the areas of health and nutrition. In my view, this should inform the company’s forward-looking vision, and this is where I think the company can be more ambitious and audacious.

To ensure Tiger Brands’ success over the next decade, the opportunity lies in leveraging its standing as a leading food company in Africa to reclaim and carve out its role in this space. To this end, the company has an opportunity to give real shape and meaning to sustainable development, and to the recent interest in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues. Promoting food security, addressing hunger and delivering healthy nutrition is absolutely core to the company’s business, and it needs to make this link more overtly with the broader sustainability agenda. Tiger Brands has initiated some solid foundational work in this area, and there is significant opportunity to further integrate these goals into the company’s strategic thinking.

    What are some of the priority challenges that you believe need to be addressed?

There are several key challenges facing the company, most of which I think are well known both inside the organisation and externally by its key stakeholders. One of our most important priorities is to improve the supply chain to ensure efficiency, product availability, and customer service excellence. Technology and the digital arena is another important area, which I believe can significantly support the company’s efficiency agenda, and the company also needs to maintain a strong focus on food safety and quality. Finally, informed by the operating environment and a value-orientated consumer, we will need to be relentless in reducing costs. Delivering on these ambitions will require that we have the right talent in the right places, underpinned by a strong culture of accountability. We have seen some significant changes recently in the company’s leadership team, which augurs well for the future.

    The immediate macro-economic outlook is challenging. Where do you see the opportunities?

It’s clear that we are facing some significant macro-economic challenges in South Africa, with the pandemic compounding an already fragile economy. In this context, there are still opportunities for delivering organic growth, for example through consumer-based product innovation, especially in the value segment of the portfolio, as well as by driving innovation in the company’s route-to-market.

I believe that some of the more exciting opportunities are in markets across Africa, where we are likely to see stronger levels of economic growth than in South Africa. While I appreciate that some investors and board members might be cautious – given Tiger Brands’ and other South African companies’ recent experiences on the rest of the continent – I believe that the company is correct to expand its current export strategy, learning from past mistakes and building on its success story in Cameroon.

    It’s early days, but what are your first impressions of the company?

I’ve only been actively engaged since the beginning of September. So far, I’ve participated in the company’s strategic planning process and in the most recent board committee meetings. What has struck me in these engagements is that the executive team and the board have a very strong commitment to turning the company around. They both clearly recognise the challenges the company faces, and have a clear understanding of what needs to be done to stabilise the business and reclaim its leading position. I am also confident that the executive team recognises that there is a strong expectation for improved accountability.

Looking ahead, Tiger Brands should be associated with quality, excellence, sustainability and sound governance, underpinned by a culture of agility and innovation, and by a strong commitment to ensuring full accountability for decisions and actions. These are my measures of success. I believe that Tiger has the right attributes to achieve these outcomes and I am looking forward to the challenge.