As Ruth Kimmelshue adjusts to her new role as the president of Cargill Value Added Meats Retail, she brings her experience with both grains and consumer products to the turkey industry. As vice president of Cargill AgHorizons she was involved in trading, managing elevators, managing domestic and international product lines, analyzing markets and exploring opportunities in value-added marketing. Through her work with Cargill Salt, Kimmelshue learned aspects of the retail business and understanding consumer needs. She feels that experience will also serve her well with Cargill Value Added Meats Retail.
"We have to understand how to utilize what we have in terms of resources, production capacities, and innovation capabilities to create products that consumers are really going to value," she said.
Taste, convenience and affordability are important in consumer's minds, but corporate responsibility areas like animal welfare and food safety are equally vital, Kimmelshue said. She expects Cargill Value Added Meats Retail to continue to improve in both of these areas.
After experiencing very large recalls in 2011, Cargill has committed itself to improving its already high food safety standards, Kimmelshue said.
"We have been very intentional of gaining a much broader and deeper understanding of how we can deliver safe products to the marketplace because that's our obligation as an industry. We're working really hard internally at all levels of the organization and at all points in the supply chain to ensure that we are delivering a food-safe product," she said.
Staying innovative through product development and promotion
Kimmelshue understands that the consumers have a connection with Cargill's established products within the Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms lines. But the company also has an active innovation program to develop new products that have appeal, she said.
While she did not specifically identify any new products to be introduced in the near future, she did speak proudly of Cargill's new Turkify promotion, which aims to get people to think of turkey as a versatile and flavorful protein that can be served throughout the year.
"How do we create awareness? Instead of grilling hamburgers, you can grill ground turkey burgers. Instead of pork tenderloins, why not try turkey tenders? We're excited to encourage people to turkify their whole protein experience. We want people to think of turkey at the same time they think of pork, beef and chicken, and realize that it's an exciting alternative."
Kimmelshue replaces Steve Willardsen, who retired at the end of May. While Willardsen had a lifetime involvement in the turkey industry, Kimmelshue's main exposure to the turkey industry was through producers and processors who bought feed while she worked in the grain business.
Her career in the grain industry in began in 1986 when she took a job with Continental Grain. When Continental Grain was purchased by Cargill in 1999, she stayed with the company, eventually becoming vice president of Cargill AgHorizons. She was involved in trading, managing elevators, managing domestic and international product lines, analyzing markets and exploring opportunities in value-added marketing. She also spent some time in an internal consulting group, which helped her get exposed to the "greater side of Cargill."
After her stint with Cargill AgHorizons, she spent more than four years as the president of Cargill Salt. When she took over the salt unit, she knew little about the industry, but she embraced the opportunity to learn.
"I believe that I'm a really avid learner and a quick learner," she said. "The critical piece is curiosity and the ability to keep asking questions. Bringing someone with a different perspective to ask questions that someone who had been in the industry a long time wouldn't can be a good thing. Sometimes through those questions, we can find what the next opportunity is."
Kimmelshue says she inherits a tremendously strong team. "They know their business well. The critical piece is in understanding their capabilities and their expertise while providing leadership to use those to the good of the business. Collectively, we'll continue to build the successful business that Cargill deserves to have."