The final lecture of the 2021 Roy S. Pung Executive Speaker Series featured Greg Longstreet (B.A. General Business ’92), president and CEO of Del Monte Foods Inc. Joined by undergraduate honors students and Dean Sanjay Gupta, Longstreet gave a comprehensive overview of Del Monte’s transformation process from a one-dimensional canned food company to a driven, multifaceted branded consumer packaged goods company. He also identified some leadership differentiators and discussed how they have contributed to improving the company throughout the pandemic and looking ahead into the future.
With 30 years of experience in the food industry, including various leadership roles at companies such as Hormel Foods Corporation and Dole Food Company, Longstreet took on the responsibility of transforming a 130-year-old brand that was once on the verge of bankruptcy into a leading innovator of healthy, better-for-you products.
“As I stepped into my role at Del Monte, I found that I needed to inspire change, I needed to connect purpose and productivity, I needed to help the company unleash the collective energy, and I had a lot to learn about the challenges this company faced,” he said.
Some of Longstreet’s first major steps to restructuring the company consisted of introducing a new strategic plan, bringing in a diverse team of senior executives, improving communication and alignment across the company and setting quantitative goals to see growth performance in order to rebuild a high-performance culture and team.
“We knew we had to invest in reinvigorating our brands and in better defining and communicating our brand and purpose,” he said. “We came up with a campaign called ‘Growers of Good’ which really symbolized why we exist — to nourish families with Earth’s goodness, grow accessible nutrition, cultivate a healthy planet and inspire connections.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, Del Monte simultaneously adapted to remote work while its production plants remained in operation and demand for items drastically increased. Although the company was going through a time of change and turbulence, prioritizing safety, communication and coordination have been vital to its continuous success.
“Employees expect the leadership of the company to provide a perspective on current events and issues and to be a trusted source of information,” Longstreet said. “I’ve had to magnify my voice to all of our employees during this pandemic, finding purpose and courage and promoting positive energy during this time of disruption.”
Del Monte’s consumer-centric mindset and strong awareness of society has made the company into more than just a food business — it’s a brand all communities can rely on. In response to the pandemic, Del Monte curated a product portfolio that meets the needs of a variety of consumer segments and donated $2 million in food products to Feeding America to provide accessible, nutritious food for those struggling.
In terms of social responsibility, Longstreet has significantly strengthened Del Monte’s sustainability focus to ensure its products are grown and produced using sustainable agriculture practices.
Additionally, Del Monte has taken initiative to support team members to promote a culture of diversity and inclusion focused on fighting against social injustice as well as ethical and environmental concerns. As a food business, nutrition education is also important as they strive to provide accessible nutrition to fight against hunger.
Under Longstreet’s inspiring leadership, the company has been able to see remarkable turnaround in profit performance. Del Monte will continue to be a leader in the food industry, proudly representing what it truly means to be “Growers of Good.”
More information on the previous events in the 2020–2021 Pung Speaker Series is available on the Full-Time MBA webpage.