CEO: Hain Celestial learned lessons that will stick

Hain Celestial Group Inc.
Although changes began before COVID-19 hit the US, the pandemic cemented better practices at Hain, Schiller says.

Hain Celestial CEO Mark Schiller made a case Wednesday that he not only turned around the company he heads, he improved it.

"This can be a robust growth company, given the strengths of our brands and the strengths of our categories," Schiller said during a fireside chat discussion with Bill Chappell, a senior equity analyst at Truist Securities. The financial company hosted a virtual consumer symposium on Tuesday and Wednesday.

When Schiller started at Hain in November 2018, he had a clear edict: Fix the U.S. division of the global health and wellness company, he said.

Eliminating SKUs—even as it cost the company space on retail shelves—and streamlining the company have turned the company toward growth, he said.

A new attitude of productivity and innovation resulted in a broad variety of new teas as well as trendy snacks such as Screamin' Hot Garden Veggie Straws. These products and others generated incremental sales that will, in turn, lead to retailers giving Hain Celestial products more space when they reset their stores this year, Schiller said.

The company also streamlined its sales force, ordering system and distribution centers to improve efficiencies and the relationship with retailers. Those moves paid off when the pandemic struck and Hain Celestial could fulfill retailers' orders.

"Certainly, we brought in a lot of new consumers during the pandemic who will stick with us," he said.

"We've learned a lot as a company, in terms of how we operate. You throw adversity at companies during a pandemic and you see who sinks or swims. The fact that we've thrived—that we've serviced the business well, that we've been able to get innovation out—we've learned a lot about how we operate more efficiently and effectively, how we prioritize better. And those benefits will stay with us because they are embedded in our culture," Schiller said.

Growth in Europe, UK will exceed expectations

"If we can really replicate the playbook from North America. in Europe, you will see much greater growth out of that business than we originally contemplated on Investor Day," Schiller said.

Looking ahead to the next three years, Hain Celestial will transform into a more successful global company, not just a successful North American company, he said.

"We have great opportunities there," Schiller said. He expects to divest of less profitable brands and invest more in the strong brands, as Hain did in the United States. "It's a pretty darn good portfolio with a lot of potential. It just needs a little bit of juice and a little bit of nurturing on the right brands to get that into a growth mode as well."

When Chappell asked why Hain Celestial should continue the effort to expand in Europe, Schiller quickly replied, "Because if we can do it profitably, we should."

For example, the Linda McCartney brand of plant-based foods, which is sold in the United Kingdom, should be available in Europe because that category is experience double-digit growth, Schiller said.

The company also will consider bringing those products to the U.S., but probably not under the Linda McCartney brand. The McCartney name has more cache overseas than it does here, he said.

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