Iconic International Foodstuffs Brand: Growth and Efficiency

At a glance

  • Tom Brennan was brought in to strengthen the financial management and business performance of one of Europe’s best-known Irish tea and coffee brands.
  • Tom identified multiple challenges in the organisation, and set out to address them in a number of Finance, general management, and marketing-related roles.
  • Tom’s expertise delivered many benefits to the organisation, growing revenues by 120%, dramatically reducing costs, boosting purchasing power, and putting the business in a strong enough position to acquire four competitors.

Background

Tom-Brennan

Brought in to strengthen the financial management and business performance of one of Europe’s best-known Irish tea and coffee brands, across its retail, café, and contract catering operations, Tom Brennan pursued a wide-ranging brief covering procurement, business process optimisation, strategic planning, cost reduction, and competitive analysis.

He pioneered a reporting system that bridged financial and non-financial objectives to maximise the synergies between employees, customers, environment and innovation, and spread early awareness of the concept of People, Planet, Profit – all whilst overseeing a nine-figure spend.

Tom’s expertise transformed struggling units into profitable ones, drove the business’s expansion
through new retail and hospitality channels, and delivered significant cost savings in the Irish, UK,
and US operations.

Challenge

Tom identified multiple challenges in the organisation, and set out to address them in a number of Finance, general management, and marketing-related roles.

High on his list was procurement: the business’s supply chain was overly complex, risky, and costly, with many suppliers that each had to be individually managed.

Expansion into retail sales channels, and building close relationships with retail brand owners, were also key challenges, as the business’s products were not visible in supermarkets at the time.

Balancing costs and profitability with growth also presented some issues, as some business units were performing poorly, whilst others were buoyant but not managing expenditure closely enough.

Throughout, the need to maintain the quality and prestige of a long-established brand was paramount – often in international settings where cultural differences created additional complexity.

Solutions

On the contract catering side of the operation, Tom focused on making the procurement process both more streamlined and more rigorous, with every supplier brought onto a single, centralised procurement platform to handle frozen, chilled, and ambient supply and distribution in a unified fashion, using multi-temperature vehicles.

This enabled teams to manage procurement much more efficiently, multiply the company’s purchasing power, and incorporate product quality checks as part of the process, before the products reached their 300 commercial and institutional catering customers.

On the retail side of the operation, Tom cultivated relationships with retail brand owners to both increase the visibility of the company’s products in major retail outlets, and to enable the use of the company’s own products in the retailers’ own-brand offerings, creating multiple revenue streams from each retailer.

For the café and hospitality business, Tom identified quick, customer-facing wins that would save the businesses significant amounts without compromising on the brand’s legendary quality– through the use of different cup-holders, for example – whilst also dramatically reducing back-office costs through smarter sourcing of stationery and other essentials.

This side of the business – and some others – also called on all Tom’s skills as a cross-cultural communicator and negotiator, as he faced some difficult operational and financial circumstances –
underperforming cafés in Japan, for example, a US operation falling short on quality and resistant to change, and a substandard coffee crop in Colombia – challenges he dealt with in person, in situ, and face to face.

At the same time as he was doing all this, Tom was also determinedly driving systems, processes, and measurement to improve and validate the business’s operational and financial performance – from organisational restructuring, to managing capital projects, overseeing accounting and administration tools, and reporting and forecasting – and even recruiting, training, and supervising new staff.

Benefits

As a senior Finance professional, Tom of course knows the value of what the numbers say, and in his time with this and other companies, the value speaks for itself: revenues grown by 120% here, costs slashed by $250,000 there, a €488,000 saving on the table somewhere else – and the list goes on.

He also put the business in a strong enough financial position to acquire four other contract catering companies whilst he was in post, and manage these cost-efficiently, due not least to the centralised procurement platform he had put in place.

But numbers aren’t just what Tom’s about. He values the quality of what the business delivers above all, and sees it as his job to make the financials support what makes the business’s products or services a winner – whatever that business’s sector and size.

Making good use of his multidisciplinary expertise, at EFM he helps businesses manage and optimise their finances in ways old and new, but, above all, he is proud to live up to his reputation as (as a CEO he worked for once put it) “a good communicator, a good negotiator, and honest.”

Read more about Tom Brennan Here


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