In the first half of 2020, I had the fortunate pleasure of spending a large proportion of my time speaking with some of Asia’s most influential leaders in the FMCG sectors.  Sometimes I spoke to them as clients, sometimes as candidates and oftentimes both.  Some of the conversations I had were inspiring, many were up-beat, but some were just downright depressing. 

Below are some anecdotes:

Winners

The need for top talent in the Consumer Package Goods (CPG) sector remains strong.  From food and beverage to household cleaning products, players in CPG did a great job to meet unusually high demand through quick adaptations of digitalisation.  Divisions within companies like Unilever, P&G, RB, Kraft Heinz, Henkel, Kimberly Clark and Hershey capitalised on exceptional market conditions and an ideal portfolio of products.  From chocolate bars to laundry detergent, consumers both wanted and needed certain FMCG products in volume.   

We continue to see the need for senior FMCG leadership talent in E-commerce, Digital Marketing and Omni-channel Sales roles as well as Logistics, Supply Chain and Procurement.  For many companies, COVID caught them with their pants down as their existing e-commerce, digital, technology and supply chain platforms were not robust enough to deal with such high-level disruption.   

Hainan, the smallest and southernmost province of China Mainland was the bright spot for CPG with significant travel retail BU’s, with Beijing having raised the annual tax-free shopping limits for Mainland Tourists and also the lack of travelling options - Sales reportedly reached RMB 200 million on 1 May 2020, L’Oreal, Estee Lauder and a number of luxury brands were the main benefactors on Hainan Island in Q2.

Movers & shakers

Despite the uncertainties in first half of 2020, major CPG players showed no hesitancy in renewing their leadership teams and executives exuded confidence in stepping out of their comfort zones in these unprecedented times.

  1. Yeo’s hired Samuel Koh, a returning Singaporean, as their new Group Chief Executive Officer.  Samuel joined Yeo’s after his international career with The Coca-Cola Company. 
     
  2. CPG giant PepsiCo hired Wern-Yuen Tan from Walmart to be their Asia Pacific Chief Executive Officer.    
     
  3. Heineken made some significant moves in the region including Jacco van der Linden moving from Heineken Vietnam to Heineken Singapore to take over the Asia Pacific Regional President’s role from Dolf van den Brink. 
     
  4. Matteo Fantacchiotti, long time beer and spirits expert, moved to Campari as the Managing Director of Asia Pacific.
     
  5. Luigi Mirri was promoted to the position of General Manager APAC as Hershey’s continues its growth strategy across Asia Pacific.  
     
  6. Consumer goods veteran Kelly Tung took over the Asia Vice President’s position at The Clorox Company in Hong Kong. 
     
  7. Kimberly Clark reshaped their Asia Pacific leadership team with Aaron Powell returning to the region as the new APAC President. 

These leadership appointments reflect company’s continued interest in internal mobility, regional expertise and hiring local / regional talent whenever possible. This doesn’t necessarily bode well for the aspirational expat seeking refuge in Asia Pacific.

Geographical moves were also in full swing.  Moet Hennessy announced the relocation of regional staff from Hong Kong to Singapore while Kraft Heinz completed their move to Shanghai after many years in Singapore.  These office relocations have and will create opportunities for local talent as not every executive wants to move countries.   

What can we expect in H2?

While many companies were busy with crisis management, major players in FMCG showed no signs of slowing on their people strategy. Whatever may happen in the rest of H2, companies have and will continue to hire exceptional talent to help push through chaotic times and prepare for a new normal.  

For many FMCG companies Q3 will be the quarter of reckoning as panic buying reduces and consumers like myself realize that the pantry is filled with all the Ketchup, Dettol, Persil and Peroni to last until 2025! 

I can confidently say that my 23 years in Asia and 16 years in recruitment have prepared me well for the dynamic and changing nature of the current market and the constant curve balls that seemed to just keep coming.  I have no doubt that H2 will bring about a new set of challenges for clients, candidates and recruiters alike but I’m confident we will find our feet and continue to move forward.     

Steve Parkes 
Senior Partner 
Global Consumer Practice Head 
[email protected]