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Don’t just get used to constant change; embrace it, Keurig Dr Pepper executive says at Pung Executive Speaker Series

By Kait Kisel, student writer

In the first Fall 2018 installment of the annual Pung Executive Speaker Series, Eli Broad College of Business MBA students had the opportunity to hear from Jim Trebilcock (BA Marketing ’80, MBA ’81), chief concentrate & international officer of beverage giant Keurig Dr Pepper Inc. on Thursday, Sept. 27.

The concept of change was an overarching theme in Trebilcock’s presentation. With the speed of change accelerating in the world of business, if a company stops evolving and challenging the status quo, its business will suffer. According to Trebilcock, students must not only get used to constant change as they enter the workforce, but embrace it, as well as drive it.

Jim Trebilcock. Photo by Kait Kisel.
Jim Trebilcock. Photo by Kait Kisel.

Keurig Dr Pepper is a prime example of keeping up with accelerating changes in business. Once-popular household staples, such as carbonated beverages, have seen a sales decline in recent years. In their place, emerging categories such as bottled water and alternative dairy, once small segments, now penetrate the market.

“It is one thing to see and understand a trend, it is another thing to do something about it,” said Trebilcock. In 2014, stock prices were at an all-time high for Keurig Dr Pepper Inc. However, acting on the motto of, “break things before they are broken,” the company decided to take the plunge and enter new segments of the market.

The company used an allied brand strategy to diversify its portfolio. Keurig Dr Pepper Inc. expanded distribution for small entrepreneurial brands, which allowed it to participate in categories with rapid growth with minimal investment. However, down the line the company expanded its brand portfolio in more permanent manners with the purchase of companies such as Bai and Core Hydration.

“Manufacturers must adapt to survive in this challenging and changing environment,” said Trebilcock. “Cost reduction, improved efficiencies, and a product portfolio that meets consumer needs is the path to sustainable growth.”

Keurig Dr Pepper has a future vision of producing a beverage for every need. In identifying gaps in its portfolio, then innovating and renovating through acquisitions, partnerships, and distribution and manufacturing, the company believes it can build a brand portfolio that is matched with universal availability to reach everyone in the United States and beyond.

The key is finding opportunities, and quickly acting on them, as Trebilcock shared with MBA students.

In order to better understand consumers and know what direction to take the company, Keurig Dr Pepper implemented a consumer-centric strategy to address market challenges. This strategy provides a framework for understanding consumer needs and context by defining the driving forces of consumer choice across all beverage categories and brands.

In understanding the emotional, functional, and technical needs of consumers, the company has been able to adapt to the changing market in a way that has produced sustainable growth.

Trebilcock accredits Keurig Dr Pepper Inc.’s growth to:

  • A high performance team culture;
  • Acquiring talented workers;
  • Being the best in class at cost management and re-investment for growth;
  • Grand brands, innovation, and renovation.

The Roy S. Pung Executive Speaker Series, sponsored by an endowment created by retailers in the photographic and imaging industry, honors the industry trade association’s long-time executive director, Roy S. Pung.

“My goal was to be able to bring to campus business leaders in the C-suite not just once in a year, but so frequently that our students can feel like there are many, many Spartans that have gone on to tremendous success in different industries, in different geographies, and that it would not be impossible for them to envision themselves as being successful in the same manner, someday,” said Sanjay Gupta, Eli and Edythe L. Broad Dean. “I think what I heard from a lot of people is, having these examples of success emboldens people to the art of the possible.”

“What we are trying to do through the Pung Speaker Series is provide a platform whereby we bring many of these individuals back to campus over a period of a year and expose our students to these individuals and the different industries that they are in, and the different paths that they have pursued to get to where they are that hopefully, our current students can feel empowered to pursue the path that they might choose,” Gupta said.

Other scheduled Pung speakers this fall include David Staples (BA Accounting ’85), president and CEO of SpartanNash Company; Scott Farrell (BS Applied Engineering Sciences ’80, EMBA ’89), operating partner of Wynnchurch Capital; and David Feber (BS Civil Engineering ’94), a partner with McKinsey & Company.


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