2009年5月13日 星期三

Belgian rock who scaled a Swiss peak


Belgian rock who scaled a Swiss peak

By Haig Simonian , Jenny Wiggins 2009-05-11

W orking in Peru in the early 1980s, as the Shining Path guerrillas cast an ever longer shadow over the country, Paul Bulcke got into the habit of forming close-knit, supportive relationships with his Nestlé colleagues. Nearly three decades later, that reputation as a team player in a company wary of prima donnas helped the quietly spoken Belgian succeed Peter Brabeck to become chief executive of the Swiss food company.

For outsiders, the chatty, charming Paul Polman - who subsequently left Nestlé to become chief executive at Unilever, one of its key competitors - had been the obvious choice. Within Nestlé, however, Mr Bulcke's undemonstrative style and solid record over 30 years spoke for themselves.

The 54-year-old still finds it hard to answer the question of why he was chosen. "I'm trying always to simplify things," he suggests over lunch at Nestlé's headquarters in Vevey, overlooking Lake Geneva to the French Alps. "And I try to align people behind common purposes . . . I love working in teams."

Nestlé, he says, has been part of his life since his youth, when he collected stickers of its products. "I had these albums . . . you didn't go to a library [or] buy books, you made them." After training as a commercial engineer (a subject his two sons have also chosen to study - "boring family!"), he joined Nestlé in 1979, aged 25.

He chose the Swiss group because he and his wife, a neighbourhood sweetheart from their native Ostend, wanted to see the world. A university friend who worked for Nestlé recommended the company and, after expressing interest in South America, Mr Bulcke spent the next 16 years in Peru (where he travelled round with his family in an orange Volkswagen), Ecuador and Chile.

"Ecuador is a nice country," he reflects. "But also problems . . . Latin America, it's a pity, they could be so much better."

Major promotion came in 1996 when he was made market head in Portugal, followed by similar positions in the Czech and Slovak Republics and Germany. In 2004, he reached the group's executive board, followed soon after by responsibility for the Americas.

In hindsight, that was the break that groomed Mr Bulcke as chief executive for the company, which operates in every country of the world except North Korea, and whose products (1.2bn are sold every day) range from Maggi sauces to Kit Kat chocolate bars and Gerber baby foods.

In his four years heading the region, the Americas pulled away from Europe as Nestlé's biggest regional market. Mr Bulcke not only proved himself a salesman but also burnished his reputation as a rounded manager. Although most of Nestlé's big US acquisitions, such as Dreyer's ice cream, took place shortly before his arrival, it was during his tenure that vital integration took place.

One year on as chief executive, he admits to "maturing into the job" but still tends to emphasise company strategy over any personal contribution. "The whole thing about what my legacy might be is just not my way of doing things," he says, insisting instead that he wants to make Nestlé "the recognised, leading, nutrition health and wellness company".

Hasn't Nestlé already achieved that? "No, not in my eyes . . . So there's major work to be done still."

Mr Bulcke maintains his mission is to continue the course set by Mr Brabeck, who remains chairman, and Helmut Maucher before him. His predecessors, who served a cumulative 26 years in charge, turned Nestlé into the world's largest foods group through geographic expansion, especially into the US, and by developing a broader portfolio, adding products such as waters and pet foods along with high-margin "nutritional" brands.

Transformational deals, such as the acquisition of the Carnation food company, are over and the emphasis now is on consolidation and operational excellence along with the occasional bolt-on acquisition, he says. He will not comment on whether these could include L'Oréal, of which Nestlé owns just above 30 per cent.

If undramatic, like the new chief executive himself, the formula has gone down well. In recent quarters, Nestlé has pulled convincingly ahead of rivals, such as Unilever or Danone, producing sector-beating profits and growth. Last year, the group comfortably exceeded its target of raising sales by 5-6 per cent - no mean feat for a company with annual turnover of SFr100bn (£59bn): "That's the equivalent of the entire year's sales of a small multinational."

Figures for the first quarter, released last month, showed Nestlé remained broadly on course in spite of the recession. Organic growth of 3.8 per cent was below the group's mid-term target. But Nestlé reiterated its forecast for organic growth "at least approaching" its annual 5 per cent goal alongside further improvements in its profit margin in local currencies. "The business is holding up pretty well," notes Alex Molloy of Credit Suisse.

Mr Bulcke claims Nestlé, while "not in denial" about the financial crisis, has been shielded by its size and geographical spread. The company was able to identify, relatively early, impending commodity and energy price rises and pass them on. "We want to see the glass half full. My father always told me, if you want to organise for disaster, guess what, you may get it."

Scale also helped. Many established products, such as Nescafé coffee, are available at different prices, meaning customers can continue buying, even if only in smaller packets. "People don't have to trade out of our brands. You have Nescafé, and Nescafé Gold and Nescafé Classic and Nescafé Sachet . . . and then you have the offerings of Nespresso."

Popularly Positioned Products, an established strategy for developing markets, has also come as a useful recession-buster. For years, the group sold items in very small quantities in countries such as India or China where customers struggled to afford the bigger packets and tins common in the developed world.

Mr Bulcke argues the PPP philosophy, which encompasses pricing, packaging and distribution, is a "very timely" business model for developed markets as people buy cheaper groceries.

In the US, for example, the group imports chocolates made in Mexico. The products, targeted at Hispanic buyers, have an emotional appeal while the relatively small and inexpensive packets make them affordable as customers tighten their belts. "We have to show empathy for the consumer."

Mr Bulcke says one of his biggest worries is keeping consumers' trust, a task that is increasingly challenging for food companies as they source ingredients more widely, making it difficult to keep tabs on safety. "Trust is the most important thing we create - it's hard to build up and you can lose it in the flash of a second."

The other is the increased responsibilities that come with leadership. To explain, he pulls out a piece of paper. "That's where I was just before CEO," he says, drawing a triangle and scribbling a line just below the apex.

"You still have lots of responsibility, a whole zone, North America, that's quite interesting . . . but I was cocooned, I didn't go through the stress of talking to the press. When you come here [he points to the apex], that's where the buck stops. All of a sudden, your responsibility goes this way [he draws another triangle, inverted on top of the previous one]. You have the board, stakeholders, financial analysts, investors, governments, authorities, press . . . it scares and it invites."

After the deluge: why Nestlé expects a bottled water comeback

One of the main challenges Paul Bulcke faces is to demonstrate Nestlé's social responsibility. Growing disdain among consumers for water packaged in plastic has hit sales of Vittel, Perrier and Poland Spring while many of Nestlé's competitors - most recently Cadbury and Mars - are signing up to certification schemes such as Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance.

Mr Bulcke believes the backlash against bottled water is temporary. "Rationality is going to come back," he says, arguing that water remains a healthy alternative to soft drinks and a safe source of hydration in developing countries. "It's hard for me to understand that water is, all of a sudden, the paradigm of all evil."

Nestlé is making its bottles lighter, so they use less plastic, and promoting recycling. "We have to create awareness with people so they act responsibly."

He rejects the idea that Nestlé needs a certification body to prove it treats farmers fairly and sources materials sustainably. "In Switzerland, people do good things and they do them under their own conviction, and they shut up . . . Nestlé is a little like that."

Nevertheless, Mr Bulcke concedes Nestlé needs to "frame" its actions better. It is promoting a concept it calls "creating shared value" which will sponsor global programmes to reduce water use, improve nutrition and develop rural communities.


作者:英国《金融时报》海格•西蒙尼恩(Haig Simonian)、 珍妮•威金斯( Jenny Wiggins) 2009-05-11

上世纪80年代初,正当“光明之路”游击队给秘鲁投下史上最长的阴影时,保罗•薄凯(Paul Bulcke)就在秘鲁为雀巢(Nestlé)工作,并养成了与同事建立紧密关系、相互协作的习惯。近30年过去后,在这个警惕自我本位主义者的公司,凭 借善于团队合作的声誉,这位说话温和的比利时人接替包必达(Peter Brabeck),成为了这家瑞士食品公司的首席执行官。

在外界看来,健谈、迷人的保罗•波尔曼(Paul Polman)是显然的接班人选,但在雀巢内部,薄凯的内敛作风及其过去30年的优秀业绩是无须赘言的。波尔曼随后离开雀巢,去担任雀巢主要竞争对手之一联合利华(Unilever)的首席执行官。

现年54岁的薄凯仍觉得难以解释他被选中的原因。在位于沃韦(Vevey)的雀巢总部,他一边享用午餐,视线越过日内瓦湖(Lake Geneva),看向法国阿尔卑斯山,一边说道:“我总是试图把事情简单化。我试图让人们团结在共同的目标之下……我喜欢在团队中工作。”

他说,自青年时期起,雀巢就是他生活中的一部分,那时候,他会收集雀巢产品的标签。“我以前有这些标签簿……不是去图书馆(或)买书,而是自己制作 的。”在念完商务工程师(他的两个儿子也选择了这门学科——“无趣的家庭!”)的课程后,他于1979年加入雀巢。当时他25岁。




事后看来,这是个转折点,使他得到了历练,为后来担任首席执行官做好了准备。雀巢业务遍及除朝鲜以外的所有国家,日销售产品12亿件,旗下产品包括美极(Maggi)调味料、奇巧(Kit Kat)巧克力和嘉宝(Gerber)婴儿食品等等。

在他执掌美洲业务的4年内,美洲取代欧洲,成为雀巢最大的区域市场。薄凯不仅证明了自己是一位营销人才,同时也打下了作为一名全能型管理人才的声 誉。尽管雀巢在美国的多数重大收购(比如收购醉尔斯(Dreyer's)冰淇淋)都是在他上任前不久发生的,但至关重要的整合却是在他的任期内进行的。



薄凯认为,他的使命是继续执行包必达及其前任赫尔穆特•毛赫(Helmut Maucher)所设定的路线。包必达目前仍担任董事长之职。这两位前任一共在位26年,将雀巢打造成了全球最大的食品集团。他们实施地理扩张,尤其是打 进美国市场,并扩大了产品种类,在利润率较高的“营养”品牌之外,增添了水和宠物食品。


如果没有波澜,就像这位新任首席执行官一样,这个公式已经执行得很好。在最近几个季度,雀巢已经明显领先于联合利华和达能(Danone)等竞争对 手,创造出了超行业表现的利润和增长。去年,该集团轻松超过了将销售量提高5%至6%的目标——对于一家年营业额为1000亿瑞郎的公司来说,这可是不俗 的成绩:“相当于一家小型跨国公司全年的销售额。”

上个月公布的首季业绩表明,尽管经济低迷,但雀巢基本上仍在朝着既定方向发展。内生增长率为3.8%,低于该集团的中期目标。但雀巢重申了内生增长 率“至少接近”5%的年度目标和以本币计算的利润率将进一步提高的预测。瑞士信贷(Credit Suisse)的亚历克斯•莫洛伊(Alex Molloy)指出:“雀巢的经营情况相当好。”


包装尺寸也有帮助。许多老产品以不同的价位提供,比如雀巢咖啡(Nescafé),这意味着顾客可以继续购买,虽说是小一些的包装。“人们不必放弃 购买我们的品牌。你有雀巢咖啡(Nescafé)、雀巢金牌咖啡(Nescafé Gold)、Nescafé Classic和Nescafé Sachet可以选择……然后我们还提供Nespresso。”

针对发展中市场的大众化定位产品(Popularly Positioned Products)策略,也成为有用的抗衰退工具。多年来,雀巢一直在中印等国出售小容量产品,因为这里很多顾客负担不起在发达国家常见的大包装袋或大包装罐的产品。





“你也是有许多责任,整个区域、北美,这十分有意思……但我处于内部,不必承受面对媒体的压力。当你到这个位置的时候(他指着顶点),这就是最高点 了。突然之间,你的责任转向了另一个方向(他在上述三角形上方,画了一个倒三角形)。你要面对董事会、股东、财务分析师、投资者、政府、权威机构、媒 体……这令人害怕,也令人向往。”


薄凯面临的主要挑战之一是展现雀巢的社会责任感。消费者对塑料包装饮用水越来越反感,已经影响了Vittel、巴黎水(Perrier)和波兰泉 (Poland Spring)的销售。另一方面,雀巢的许多竞争对手都签署了公平贸易(Fairtrade)和雨林联盟(Rainforest Alliance)之类的认证计划,最近的就有吉百利(Cadbury)和玛氏(Mars)。