Irene Rosenfeld, Chairman and CEO, Mondelēz International, Inc.

interviewed by Alan Murray

  • Share

Session recap

Irene Rosenfeld, Chairman and CEO, Mondelēz International, Inc.

One of the most powerful women in the business world, Irene Rosenfeld, Chairman and CEO, Mondelēz International, packed a dynamic cache of insights into Friday morning’s interview at the Forum with The Wall Street Journal’s Alan Murray.

Irene Rosenfeld: transforming a company

One of the most powerful women in the business world, Irene Rosenfeld, Chairman and CEO, Mondelēz International, packed a dynamic cache of insights into Friday morning’s interview at the Forum with The Wall Street Journal’s Alan Murray.

She joined Kraft Foods Inc., the predecessor to Mondelēz International, Inc., as CEO in 2006 and became Chairman in 2007 following Kraft’s spin-off from Altria Group. Through a series of strategic acquisitions, notably of LU biscuit from Danone and of Cadbury Plc, Kraft subsequently became the world’s leading snacks company.

After helping Kraft transform its portfolio by expanding geographically and building its presence in the fast-growing snacking category and seeing the need for two portfolios each under different management, Rosenfeld led the split that resulted in the creation of Mondelēz in October 2012.

Mondelēz (pronounced mohn-dah-leez) is a combination of the word “monde,” French for “world,” and “delez,” a fanciful expression of “delicious.”

The culture of snacking
Food is a very local business, Rosenfeld explained. Take the Oreo in China, for example. When Kraft tried to introduce it to Chinese customers, they found it wasn’t the right fit — or size, or taste. “Our local people said it was too big and too sweet,” Rosenfeld said. The sandwich format wasn’t popular in China, either, where the preference is wafers. Local managers went to work to develop a locally appealing product. “Now we have Oreo in green tea flavor,” she said. “It’s been a phenomenal business.” Lessons learned Kraft’s acquisition of Cadbury in 2010 received controversial press in the UK, and much of the criticism was grandstanding, in Rosenfeld’s opinion. “We understood full well that we were talking about a global icon,” she said, noting that Cadbury’s profile had already become international, with only one-third of its shareholders in the UK. “In the hoopla, we did not make that clear.”

When it comes to management, Rosenfeld admitted that she wished it was easier. “I can't manage 100,000 employees,” she said. “But I can inspire leaders of the company to, in turn, inspire their teams.”

As one of the few women CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, Irene has made diversity and inclusion a priority, particularly with women. Half of her management team and a third of her board are women because she has made it a priority and a part of her managers’ compensation.

“You can’t say no one is in the pipeline if you haven’t focused on getting [women] in the pipeline,” she said. “It has to be a commitment that’s made at the top.”

Her best advice to both women and men: “Be yourself. If you’re not comfortable in the environment you’re in, get out of it.”

Irene RosenfeldspacerIrene Rosenfeld is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Mondelēz International, Inc. Launched on Oct. 1, 2012, and employing 100,000 people around the world, Mondelēz International comprises the global snacking and food brands of the former Kraft Foods Inc. following the spin-off of its North American grocery business. Irene has positioned Mondelēz International to deliver consistent top-tier growth by reinvigorating iconic brands, transforming the portfolio and strengthening the company’s presence in fast-growing developing markets. Irene is a 30-year veteran of the food and beverage industry and is consistently ranked among the top women in global business. She began her career in consumer research, then joined General Foods, which later became part of Kraft Foods. Irene led the restructuring and turnaround of key businesses in the US, Canada and Mexico. She served on the team that spearheaded the company’s IPO in 2001 and successfully integrated the Nabisco, LU and Cadbury businesses. She holds a PhD in Marketing and Statistics and an MBA and a BA in Psychology, all from Cornell University. She is a member of The Economic Club of Chicago and serves on the Grocery Manufacturers Association Board of Directors and Cornell’s Board of Trustees.


Alan MurrayspacerAlan Murray is Deputy Managing Editor and Executive Editor, Online, for The Wall Street Journal. He has editorial responsibility for the Journal's websites, including and MarketWatch, and its books, conferences and television operations. Prior to his current position, Mr. Murray was Assistant Managing Editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of the paper's “Business“ column. Previously, he served as CNBC's Washington, DC, Bureau Chief and was co-host of Capital Report with Alan Murray and Gloria Borger. Before his three years at CNBC, he spent a decade as the Washington Bureau Chief for The Wall Street Journal. The bureau won three Pulitzer Prizes and many other awards during his tenure. Also an award-winning, best-selling book author, Mr. Murray most recently wrote The Wall Street Journal Essential Guide to Management and Revolt in the Boardroom, The New Rules of Power in Corporate America and Showdown at Gucci Gulch. Mr. Murray received a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of North Carolina and a master's degree in economics from the London School of Economics, and in 2005, he completed the Stanford Executive Program. He lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, with his wife, Dr. Lori Murray, and their two children.