With more than 20 years’ experience in the FMCG industry, Paul Slaughter is well placed to guide the Australian family-owned bakery business as CEO.
Paul Slaughter began his career in the FMCG industry in the 1990s as an independent grocery rep for Procter & Gamble. After completing significant training and development, he was later promoted to state manager for Western Australia.
Following this, he moved to Melbourne and held senior roles including managing K-Mart Australia and New Zealand, general manager for Procter & Gamble leading the Coles customer team, and general manager account sales at Tabcorb.
After taking some time off to travel, Mr Slaughter moved to Sydney and worked as national business manager for Campbell Arnott’s leading the Woolworths customer team.
After more than three years with Campbell Arnott’s, he returned to Perth in 2005 and spent more than four years consulting, mostly helping small food companies develop their sales and marketing platforms and go-to-market strategy.
In 2010, he was appointed general manager for Metcash Food & Grocery in WA.
“It was a wonderful role in terms of scope and responsibility – full distribution, warehousing, manufacturing, leading the commercial team, the property side of things in the state, all of the sponsorships and brand development and, importantly, the relationship with the independent customer,” Mr Slaughter said.
He progressed to director of the Metcash transformation project in Sydney, leading a major project team to develop the strategic plan for that business. In preparation for this role, he completed the Advanced Management Program at the INSEAD leadership school in Fontainebleau, France.
Mr Slaughter rates his INSEAD experience as one of his career highlights alongside working on the Metcash transformation.
“Attending INSEAD was part of my career development,” he said. “It’s an amazing program out of Europe and is like a Boston or a Harvard program but if focuses more on your leadership style and how this impacts on your team and the people around you.”
Moving on from Metcash, Mr Slaughter joined Mrs Mac’s as CEO in February.
His background across corporate and small business has armed him with broad experience of business development, strategy development and operational capability and ultimately prepared him to take the helm of the Australian family-owned bakery company.
“Particularly, it has given me very strong leadership skills in a variety of environments and cultures,” Mr Slaughter said of his career so far. “I’ve had the opportunity to work extensively on strategic planning and, importantly, bring those plans to life operationally.”
He said his new role is both interesting and challenging and he is enjoying the personal and cultural interaction of being with a family-owned business and putting his stamp on what he says is already “a fantastic company”.
“There’s a wonderful group of people at Mrs Mac’s, many who’ve been here for up to 40 years and longer,” he said. “In one case there is three generations of the one family and being a family company create a unique environment of loyalty and passion for both the brand and the company.”
This year marks a milestone for Mrs Mac’s as the company celebrates 60 years of operations. Originally trading as Bakewell Pies in Melbourne, the company launched in the 1950s and relocated to Perth during the 1960s off the back of a strong growth period. It became known as Mrs Mac’s in the 1980s.
The company highlights its dedication to innovation and recently launched a premium range of Chef’s Own gourmet pies and rolls, made with high-quality ingredients.
“Our new product development pipeline is very strong and I’m very excited about some of the innovation we’re bringing to the category in the next 12 months and beyond,” Mr Slaughter said.
“I see fantastic opportunity for us to continue to innovate in our core category, savoury pastry, in both frozen and fresh, and extend via innovative products into different segments. I see a wonderful opportunity to diversify into other food categories and we’re busy working through what that looks like.”
According to the new CEO, trends in the pie category are in line with overall food trends, focusing on provenance, health and budgetary constraints.
“There’s a drive towards knowing the provenance of ingredients and, fortunately for Mrs Mac’s, we’re proudly Australian owned and run, with high-quality products,” Mr Slaughter said.
He added that while budgetary constraint was widespread among consumers and driving the base end of the market strongly, “what we’re also seeing is the premium end is driving as well”.
“There’s a real mix between the need for premium products and the need for everyday products,” he said.
To stay up to date with market trends, Mrs Mac’s undertakes extensive research to understand its core consumers and utilises feedback when planning new product development.
“At Mrs Mac’s we’re very responsive to either industry or consumer trends and we often develop different flavour profiles, textures or pack configurations, or whatever is required for our customer groups,” he said.
According to Mr Slaughter, consumers becoming desensitised to promotions is a key issue affecting the category.
“I’m witnessing huge amounts of deep discounting but, obviously, it’s taking a lot more stimulation on price to make a consumer move,” he said. “So what’s happening is that desensitisation is growing and at some stage we have to question these massive swings in price as an industry, because it creates all sorts of inefficiencies for everybody throughout the supply chain.”
Despite such challenges, Mr Slaughter remains optimistic about the industry, and the value of innovation and collaboration with key stakeholders.
“We’re proud of our relationship with our customers, and that collaboration is becoming more important in continuing to satisfy consumer demands,” he said. “Execution is critical in terms of getting product through the supply chain efficiently to reduce costs as much as possible.
“If companies understand their consumer and satisfy those consumer needs through these mechanisms, then they should have a very bright future. I am generally buoyant about our industry as a whole if it can stay abreast of a very educated consumer and their fluent trends.”