John Renwick, VP of Investor Relations & Corporate Planning at Kellanova (formerly Kellogg) has spent 23 years at the company. He initially joined in 2000 as VP of IR & Competitive Analysis and then held a number of operational roles in – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Toronto, Canada, Queretaro Area, Mexico before returning to Battle Creek, MI and reprising and expanding his role as VP of IR & Corporate Planning in 2016.
Asked how he got his initial role at Kellogg, John was a sell-side analyst at Morgan Stanley, covering packaged food stocks. He was roadshowing Kellogg’s C-suite around Europe when, at the end of the trip, the CFO said “I have a crazy idea” and asked him if he wanted to become Kellogg’s IRO. John was taken by surprise, initially saying “I’m a New Yorker, my wife’s a Jersey girl, and we barely knew where Michigan was!” However, intrigued to see what life was like “on the inside” of a food company, he took the role, thinking he’d be back on Wall Street in two years.
A return to Wall Street didn’t happen, thanks to a special company culture and plenty of exciting
career opportunities. In 2004, he took the first in a number of operational roles, becoming VP of
Sales Finance & Business Management, and in 2006, keen to move internationally, he was assigned to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as CFO of Kellogg Asia. “An incredible experience for my family – imagine having to swat monkeys off the family car some mornings! – and for me to experience business in emerging markets. We were trying to expand consumption of cereal, which is cold, crunchy, and sweet, to consumers accustomed to local fare that tends to be hot, soft, and salty.” In 2007, he moved “from the furnace (of tropical KL) to the freezer” (wintry Toronto), as CFO of Kellogg Canada. Then in 2010, he moved to Queretaro, Mexico for nearly four years, as CFO of Kellogg Latin America, learning both the language and culture, as well as the excitement of a region with unique business challenges. “It wasn’t uncommon to experience currency devaluations, electricity shutdowns or earthquakes in various countries.” 2013 saw him return to Battle Creek, Michigan, as CFO of US Snacks. “Another great learning experience, as this was a uniquely challenging time, with consumer trends shifting away from low calorie, low fat foods, causing brands like Special K to fall out of favor, and there was tremendous industrywide pressure to take out costs.” In 2016, he was asked to take back the IR reins, and this turned into his current role of VP IR & Corporate Planning.
Today, the IR side of his team consists of John and an IR director, an IR Manager, and an IR
Coordinator. They cover everything from day-to-day IR operations, the IR website, and investor
materials and events, as well as analysis of peer companies, industry trends, and investor
expectations. Quarterly earnings are obviously a major part of the job. “The minute a quarter ends, we have to understand the results, trends, latest outlooks, and risks and opportunities of all of our businesses. We work closely with our four Regions, the Corporate Planning side of our team, and our Treasury and tax departments. We also coordinate closely with our Corporate Controllers Group and Legal on proper disclosures. All of this research is incorporated into a press release and earnings presentation. Ensuring that IR and management have adequate back-up information to answer wide-ranging investor questions is time consuming, as it involves preparing an 80-90 page slide deck and writing a detailed “Top 30” questions with recommended responses. On the earnings release day, Kellanova’s press release gets issued at 8 am, followed by an earnings call at 9:30am. Corporate communications handles the media interviews with the CEO immediately afterwards and the communication of the earnings results to employees, while John commences direct calls with each covering analyst through the rest of the day, and often into the evening.
With the pandemic passed, and with the company’s transformational spin-off now completed,
Kellanova is getting back to a full calendar of physical visits to investors and investment conferences. Its IR team plans the year’s investor outreach calendar prior to the start of the year, anchoring it around trips following its earnings releases and around three major conferences spaced across the year, and then filling in the calendar with other sell-side-sponsored events. John stated that “It has been an unusual few years, but we are now getting back to our normal, more comprehensive, and in-person investor outreach calendar.”
Kellanova’s recent spin-off of WK Kellogg Co was a tremendous undertaking, both operationally and from an investor relations standpoint. Asked about the spin-off and the rationale for it, John says “there were two primary elements. The first was that it became clear that the North American cereal business would do better on its own, with a fit-for-purpose structure and strategy, and no longer having to compete for incremental resources with the larger and faster-growing snacks business. The second was that no matter how snacking-oriented and global its portfolio, Kellogg Company would always be viewed by investors as a U.S. cereal company because of its name and heritage. It was not uncommon for us to have a 60 minute meeting with investors, and spend upwards to 45 minutes of it discussing U.S. cereal, which was about 15% of our business.”
Announced in June 2022, the spin-off was completed on October 2, 2023. It is not uncommon for spin-offs to require such lead time, given the significant amount of work involved across the
organization. From an IR perspective, this meant spending over a year of communicating with
investors on the rationale, the prospects, and the progress toward executing the spin-off. “This was challenging at times, because investors often craved information – particularly around financials – that we simply didn’t have completed yet. We wanted to give investors a picture of how the underlying Kellanova and WK Kellogg Co businesses were performing, but we couldn’t yet accompany that information with full financial statements.” Once the carve-out financials and strategies were completed, the company conducted a joint investor day for Kellanova and WK Kellogg Co to provide analysts and investors with the information they needed.
With the spin now completed, John says “We can now focus on demonstrating how this is a higher growth, higher margin, and more consistent deliverer of financial performance. Our portfolio is clearly weighted toward snacks and emerging markets, which are advantaged for growth. Our margins are higher. And our brands are incredible.”
This interview was recently published on IR Magazine’s website