Dan Magliocco, president and CEO, Danone Canada

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures; grocery retailers and food manufacturers have implemented such measures to ensure that Canadians continue to have access to safe food. Grocers have modified their in-store practices and suppliers have changed manufacturing processes and their supply chains to address unprecedented demand. “In Their Own Words”  brings the behind-the-scenes stories to Grocery Business' readers.

Dan Magliocco, president and CEO, Danone Canada

Crisis leadership initiatives

Let me start by saying how inspired I have personally been by the courage and compassion of all the industry’s frontline workers battling each day to keep us safe and ensure the continuity of our food supply. I am also impressed by the generosity of so many companies that have stepped up during this crisis.

For Danone, the safety of our people is our top priority, along with the safety of our food supply and the continuity of our business. During the early days of the crisis, we took decisive action ahead of government guidelines to quickly implement safety protocols related to working from home and physical distancing.

We also know the crisis will bring a great deal of stress to many individuals and families, and therefore Danone had a role to play both inside and outside our organization. We announced globally that all 100,000 Danone employees could feel secure in knowing that their wages would be guaranteed in full through the end of June regardless of any potential business disruption.

In keeping with our mission to “Bring health through food to as many people as possible,” we also stepped up donations to our longtime partner, the Breakfast Club of Canada, and local food banks.

Impact on the supply chain

Like many food and beverage companies, we experienced a tremendous surge in demand for our products as consumers adjusted to “Stay at Home” recommendations.  As part of the global Danone community, we were fortunate to leverage early insights and learnings to help keep our people and food supply safe while ensuring our business continuity. We quickly implemented distancing and safety measures in our plant to minimize physical contact while imposing strict quarantine protocol for any employee who had recently travelled. We also increased the wages of frontline workers by 15% and provided additional health care and childcare support.

We extended our safety stock to anticipate the potential surge we had seen in other countries, and these early actions allowed us to service the business with minimal disruption despite the double-digit increases. To help support our retail partners, we increased our field coverage with 3rd party merchandisers to ensure much-needed store-level support to stock shelves and displays while increasing the 3rd party wages by $2 per hour.

Your business takeaways from this experience

As a leader, you always look to learn from challenges. The start of 2020 has already presented a number of challenges, starting with the protests that disrupted our supply chains through to today’s new reality with COVID-19. These crises test our organizational readiness and agility, exposing at times weaknesses in business models or sourcing strategies. But I believe that every crisis also presents a unique opportunity, an opportunity to grow and strengthen the organizational agility and business ecosystem.

There are several learnings, but I will only touch on three:

#1 - Business is about people and human connection, from the frontline workers who are so critical in the value chain to the consumers who depend on our products every day. In times of crisis, there is no limit to the level of empathy we must have towards all stakeholders in showing we care. As a leader, ensuring frequent and compassionate communication can often help alleviate concerns.

#2 – Always staying externally focused: Crises by nature appear often suddenly and can force an overly internal focus, but maintaining an external view to the emerging insights and learnings from other parts of the world or past experiences can often help prepare your organization and your team to be more agile and responsive in dealing with potential scenarios.

#3 – Our responsibilities extend beyond our businesses: I often reflect on how Danone’s early leaders viewed their businesses role in the world. Danone’s founder, Isaac Carasso, saw the potential for yogurt to solve health problems faced by children in his community just over 100 years ago. This belief helped form the basis of our mission to “Bring health through food to as many people as possible”. A crisis like COVID-19 is a perfect opportunity for businesses to step up and show what they can do to help those that can’t.  We are privileged to be part of a food and beverage sector that has benefited from increased demand in most cases, and we therefore have a duty to do what we can to help. I am so proud to be part of Danone, and thankful for every Danoner that has shown such courage and conviction leading with our values through this crisis.

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