James Kennedy, Senior Executive Director of National Accounts at Procter & Gamble is one of the foodservice industry experts we’re thrilled to have at re:Supply Innovation Summit on July 28th, 2022. James joined Procter & Gamble in 1987 and has over thirty-two years of experience in the foodservice industry. James will be part of the panel discussion on ‘Rethinking Data Collaboration’ in which suppliers, distributors, and operators within foodservice discuss industry challenges.
1. Could you tell us about yourself? How did you get into the industry? How long have you been in foodservice?
I just celebrated my 35th year with Procter & Gamble. I’ve spent the last thirty-two years in foodservice. I grew up in the Carolinas and started with P&G right out of college. I’ve worked in Atlanta, Birmingham, Los Angeles, and Cincinnati and now live & operate out of Davidson NC. For the last 15 years, I’ve led our Restaurant Center of Excellence team, but I’m now focusing more on Business Development, Capability, and Industry Relations & Strategy. I work with our key strategic customers and targeted operators to support the industry.
2. What has changed about the foodservice industry since you started?
It's continued to expand, there’s more people eating out of home- and the trend will only continue. It's just incredible how big our industry is. I think we're at a trillion dollars now, and while a lot of that is cost inflation, it's grown tremendously. Relationships continue to be very important, but obviously technology has continued to play an increasingly vital role in the industry. There hasn’t been much data and insight in foodservice, but that's quickly changing and it's good to see.
3. How do you think technology has impacted the industry?
Technology continues to play an increasingly bigger role. During Covid, it was never more important since we were dealing with a lot of supply chain challenges. For example, in ensuring one of our key customers, Panda Restaurant Group, had all the critical cleaning chemicals needed, we relied on ArrowStream data to make sure that we were delivering, as needed (and on time) to all 26 of their DC’s. Because of the “real time” ArrowStream data, Panda knew – even before we did – when a truck didn't show up. Technology is becoming incredibly important and will continue to be so vital.
4. What’s your favorite thing about working in foodservice? How do you think working in foodservice differs from other industries?
All businesses are people businesses, but foodservice especially. I tell a lot of people that come into the industry from P&G that it's the “biggest,” but one of the smallest industries due to how people really don’t leave. They just move around from operator to operator, distributor to distributor- or supplier to supplier. I always enjoy dealing with people and that's what foodservice is all about. It is a people business, and I don't see that changing. You need to have strong capabilities and you must deliver on your promises and commitments - but when strong relationships exist built on trust, it enables us to find alternative methods when faced with challenging times such as Covid.
5. What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in your career so far?
Early on, one of the most challenging things I faced was reinforcing to Procter & Gamble the importance of this business & the huge “white space” which it offered. I fought to prove the importance of technology and the vast opportunities which existed, why we needed to partner with the operators, manufacturers, and distributors (the “3-legged stool”) to continuously improve the supply chain. As a result, today, we continue to get investments & support for more Innovation and Service infrastructure. We also receive funding to sponsor and be involved the NRA Supply Chain Management and QA/ Food Safety Expert Exchanges - and to work with great companies like ArrowStream.
6. Where do you believe things are headed with the future of the supply chain in 2022 and beyond?
Those who don't embrace technology will see themselves left behind. Those that recognize the importance and capabilities of technology will create the future. I’m thankful that P&G tries to look for that and tries to play chess instead of checkers. We try to see ahead of the curve and partner with companies like ArrowStream. We recognize the power of data and the importance of technology – not only for operators, but for manufacturers as well.
7. Is there a company or a person you admire and why?
There are a lot of people and companies that I admire, but Apple is an incredible company. They innovate regardless of who's been at the helm of that organization. I also admire David Taylor, our recently retired CEO. He was a mechanical engineer, who rose to the top of P&G. His background helped him understand not only the power of brand building, but also drive the business to adopt technology and innovate.
Learn more from James and his experience, at re:Supply. Request your invite here.