CMO interview: How innovation and marketing agility are driving growth at Freedom Foods

Freedom Foods GM of marketing and innovation shares how he's combining commercial acumen, brand strategy and innovative product thinking to drive rapid growth

Tom Dusseldorp
Tom Dusseldorp

Tom Dusseldorp is the first to admit not every marketer would want to be in his job.

As general manager of marketing and innovation for Australian specialty and allergen-free food manufacturer, Freedom Foods, he holds a strategic and significant role in a business experiencing rapid, fast-paced, international growth.

According to its most recent financials, Freedom Foods chalked up 86 per cent net sales growth across its 30-strong product range in FY2016, a figure that doesn’t just cover Australia but also increasingly North America and China. In addition, operating EDBITA increased 41 per cent year-on-year to $21.5 million.

Freedom Foods also commands a significant presence in the health food aisles of Australia’s leading supermarket chains, and provides services for a range other food producers through its growing manufacturing plants in NSW and Victoria.

But with great opportunity comes great responsibility. Dusseldorp is tasked with fuelling further growth through new product lines and brand expansion, and therefore has a direct commercial accountability and transparency some marketers still lack. This also requires him to build the business case for a marketing and then prove it.

“It’s stressful, and there is a lot of expectation and risk,” Dusseldorp says. “You need to be willing to fall on your sword.”

On the flip side, Freedom’s rapid growth and entrepreneurial culture ensures Dusseldorp holds a place among the country’s strategic marketing leaders.

“I’ve worked in businesses where there has been pressure on margins, where the first function out is marketing because it’s the discretionary spend in P&L. That can be limiting for a team of dynamic marketers,” he says.

“At Freedom, we don’t have big budgets to start with, but we are opening opportunity to generate those budgets. It’s a very entrepreneurial environment we’re working in. It’s up to me to identify the consumer need, then develop and deliver the product range that’s going to tap into that, formulate the P&L and a commercial plan to show how we’re going to support, fund and drive it.”

He points out one of the key pillars at Freedom as an organisation is measuring delivery.

“Everyone is very busy, and they value people who come in and get things done,” Dusseldorp says. “And it’s clear who has done what; there’s no hiding at Freedom. It’s the kind of organisation where your input is clear and valued.”

Brand and strategy building

Dusseldorp earned his marketing stripes building brands in the food and drinks categories. He started his career in agency land, working for a number of agencies before reaching senior account management at Publicis Mojo. He then jumped client side with Pernod Ricard, holding brand roles across the RTD and spirits portfolios, before going global to run the Chivas Prestige range in London. Returning to Australia five years ago, Dusseldorp looked after champagne and spirits categories locally before deciding to seek out a new challenge. He was attracted to Freedom Foods because of its growth aspirations as well as the chance to build brands.

“It’s hard to find a company that’s firstly in growth, but also that needs you to be a more entrepreneurial marketer, who is willing to take some risks but gives you autonomy in return,” he says.

Dusseldorp joined Freedom initially as marketing lead for the beverage business, tasked with establishing a strategy that could deliver ambitious growth in the non-dairy and dairy beverage category. This led to the launch last year of Milklab, specifically for the barista market, available in dairy and innovative non-dairy varieties including almond, soy and coconut milk.

“Milklab was based on a simple insight: Coffee has advanced so far that you can get a single source coffee from the beans of the deepest darkest regions of Guatemala at your local barista, but they’re still pouring the same old milk,” he explains. “If you think about percentages, you’re really drinking a milk beverage, but milk innovation for the cafe market hadn’t gone anywhere. That was a big market opportunity for us – there are billions of cups of coffee consumed every year, but most brands were just offering a barista milk and it lacked credibility.”

Dusseldorp says a key to the brand’s success was winning over external influencers and own the barista market. Milklab subsequently won the New Product category at the 2015 Fine Foods Australia Awards.

“We acknowledged the power of the barista and made them feel part of the process,” he says. “Milklab was created to tap into that, and is both dairy and non-dairy milk. That’s the other innovation – non-dairy milks for coffee haven’t evolved much either. But there is nothing more disastrous than a split coffee – it goes up there on the list of disastrous issues for the planet these days.”

The Milkbar launch set the new marketing bar internally, and led to Dusseldorp’s promotion to CMO across the group seven months ago, overseeing the wider cereal and snacking divisions.

“Our success helped convince the Freedom Foods management team as to what a functioning marketing team can bring in terms of adding value and opportunity to the business. It was a big turning point for us,” he says.

Up next: Ways of fuelling innovation as a CMO

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

How people buy brands

Andrew Ehrenberg was a giant in the field of marketing science. He believed scientific methods could reveal law-like patterns of how people buy. In this post, I summarise one of Ehrenberg’s most important discoveries and its implications on how people buy brands.

Kyle Ross

Strategist, TRP

Is artificial intelligence riddled with bias?

The purpose of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has always been to replace the menial and repetitive tasks we do each day in every sector, so that we can concentrate on doing what we do best. Saving time and money has certainly been a decent outcome as AI infiltrates the business landscape, however, now we are starting to see problems that cause major issues in practice.

Katja Forbes

Founder and chief, sfyte

5 things every business can do to drive brand loyalty

If you’re in any customer-centric role, you’ll likely be familiar with the Net Promoter Score (NPS) – one of the most popular tools for brands to measure their customer sentiment.

Catherine Anderson

Chief customer officer, Powershop Australia

At the deeper levels of artificial intelligence, computing machines make all kinds of correlations among whatever data is available to th...

Fraction Tech

Is artificial intelligence riddled with bias? - Customer Design - CMO Australia

Read more

https://myiplookup.com/ - find your ip address and location information in our main page. Also there are many ip tools you can use : IP L...

savefrom

iSelect outlines new approach to arrest ineffective marketing as its reports full-year results

Read more

https://myiplookup.com/ - this website will allow you to View Alexa Ranking and graph Check http headers of a website, tool to compare te...

savefrom

The Star's first CMO creates all-new marketing team

Read more

Good tips to follow. Thank you!

Anna Travis

5 things every business can do to drive brand loyalty

Read more

Thank you! That was useful to know.

Belia Adam

Why your best social marketing brand tool could be hiding in plain sight

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in