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Progressive Grocer's Top Women in Grocery event, held this year for the first time at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, in Orlando, Fla., got off to a rousing start with a keynote address from Deanie Elsner, president, U.S. Snacks at Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co.
Following a sumptuous breakfast spread courtesy of Post Consumer Brands, and welcoming remarks from PG Chief Content Editor Meg Major before a full room of excited Top Women in Grocery honorees, Elsner took the stage for a warm, frequently hilarious address on the subject of "Leading Through Disruption." The reason for this choice of topic was disarmingly straightforward: "Disruption is how we operate today."
Developing this theme, Elsner explained, "There's a seismic disruption happening in the world today," across all companies, and leaders at those companies must adjust or be irrelevant. She noted that 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies in the year 2000 no longer existed in 2010, citing Blockbuster as a prime example. Netflix, on the other hand, was able to survive and thrive by revamping its business, based on its extensive customer data. With this lesson in mind, Elsner's advice to companies was to "step back, assess and reinvent."
Elsner acknowledged that the retail and CPG industries face "a tremendous confluence of challenges" – what she termed "the Cs of change" – regarding the consumer, the customer and communication. Pointing to such demographic shifts as polarization of income, the rise of the Millennials and the growth of Latinos' influence as a consumer group, as well as emerging shopper patterns such as the increasing popularity of online purchasing, Elsner urged the audience, "You have to think of yourself as Netflix."
What's more, she pointed out, "We're living in a world today where the consumer has become the CEO."