During the course of The Moodie Davitt Report’s 16-year journey, I have reported on countless personnel changes and numerous retirements. In the transient corporate world we live in, reshuffles, restructures and retrenchments come along faster than quarterly results. But occasionally a ‘people story’ as we call them, stands out from the pack.
Such was the case last week when Mondelez World Travel Retail (WTR) announced that Managing Director Andreas Fehr will retire at the end of March, to be replaced by the admirable Jaya Singh (the man whose voice, as I noted in an earlier Blog, is more Morgan Freeman than Morgan Freeman’s. If they ever make a movie called SureSnack Redemption, Jaya’s your man).
I often cringe when I read company personnel announcements, so often do they sell an individual’s contribution and personal and professional qualities short. I make it my job in such cases to redress the balance.
No such worries on this occasion. Mondelez International Area President Central Europe & EU Central Sales Jürgen Leisse got it just right when he said: “Andreas Fehr’s contribution to Mondelez International for over two decades cannot be underestimated. He established and grew our presence in the travel retail channel to a position of clear category leadership and delivered many award-winning campaigns and remarkable new initiatives along the way. Andreas has been a trusted and highly respected partner to retailers and airport authorities worldwide. On behalf of Mondelez International, I wish Andreas the very best in his extremely well-deserved retirement.”
“Cannot be underestimated.” I like that. For it cannot be and should not be. I have known Andreas for many of his 24 years with the company (and its earlier incarnations). His first of many mentions on The Moodie Davitt Report.com (then The Moodie Report.com) came in the same month as our website’s launch, February 2003, when he talked about a major in-store merchandising development programme for the then-Kraft World Travel Retail’s (KFWTR – perhaps the most clunky acronym in industry history) core brands. In September 2004, Kraft underlined its commitment to the channel by merging its travel retail and EU export arms. The combined entity was put under the leadership of you know who. Andreas Fehr.
In June 2007 KFWTR implemented a new regional structure designed to capitalise on the growth potential of new markets. Once more Andreas was the driving force. He summed up his and the company’s approach to doing business in a memorable year-end open letter to the trade. He concluded on a theme he would touch on many times, his commitment to working hand-in-hand with others: “Our trade partnerships are much valued by all of us at Kraft Foods because we know that category development is a team exercise.”
2008 saw Toblerone (arguably the definitive travel retail success story of all time) turn, in Andreas’ words, “100 years young”. The celebrations were sustained, successful – and fun.
In April 2009 Kraft Foods announced that its World Travel Retail division was to become a separate limited liability company. Andreas said that the decision underlined Kraft’s strong commitment to and faith in “a robust and sustainable travel retail channel”.
As I wrote at the time: “Any time that a major global player in any category underlines the need for a dedicated travel retail division is good news for the channel. Travel retail needs strong and committed brand companies, particularly during these troubled times.”
In May 2010, following the acquisition of Cadbury by Kraft Foods, KFWTR (I swear that saying that out loud is more difficult than swallowing a Toblerone whole…), announced a new combined global travel retail organisation. The Managing Director? You guessed it.
Since that time, Mondelez WTR has been at the forefront of some ground-breaking industry initiatives, all championed by Andreas. In 2014 the division used The Trinity Forum 2014 in Taipei to unveil the industry’s first app for modelling collaborations across the travel retail value chain. As Andreas put it: “As a category and industry leader, Mondelez WTR has an obligation to act as a driver of positive change. We have therefore invested in the development of the Trinity Engine in order to empower users to better understand the dynamics of the travel retail value chain across all categories and to ensure that risks and rewards are more evenly shared between all parties.”
Never was the essence of the Trinity concept better expressed. Since then Mondelez WTR has rolled out a series of innovative campaigns, webinars, partnerships and industry-focused initiatives and picked up a string of travel retail awards – witness the company’s brilliant #TravelwithOREO campaign (below) that won ‘The Moodies’ award last month for Best Use of Social Media/Digital by a brand.
Wow, that’s a pretty impressive list of achievements; a tremendous track record of leadership. But it’s not just about what he, through Kraft and then Mondelez, has achieved in travel retail. It’s also about the way he has done it. Andreas has given me so much help and support down the years, just as he has given to others. Everything he has done has been understated, professional, fair and friendly. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Andreas without a smile on his face. We talk often about great contributors to our channel but I can think of few individuals who have done quite as much.
Here’s what his long-time colleague and now successor Jaya Singh has to say: “Andreas and I go back 20 years. I first met him in Hong Kong at the Hyatt Hotel for an interview. At that time they were looking at hiring someone to run the Asia Pacific business for us. We had a good chat and I went back to Singapore and discussed it with my wife. I said ‘What a nice guy (Andreas)’ and said I would give it two to three years and then move on to something else. Well I stayed 20 years! Why?Simply because this man is special, open, honest, inspiring, patient and just allows people such a broad scope that it brings out the best in them. You don’t get many leaders like that! It has been an absolute privilege working with him and no matter what, there has been a terrific sense of humour in all that we do… especially in the tough times where it really counts!”
Andreas informs me that right at the top of his priorities is the desire to spend more quality time with his growing family as a triple grandfather; as well as working on his ‘lousy’ golf handicap (all that Toblerone has clearly led to a propensity to three-putt) and to indulge in other hobbies. It’s time, he says, to attend to his bucket list.
Andreas, may that bucket overflow with joyous moments, good health and happiness.