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06 September 2018

Food businesses have an obligation to be transparent about ingredients and labelling, and to a play a role in consumer education amid worldwide concerns over obesity rates, Greg Creed, the CEO of Yum! Brands, which incorporates Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, told the QUT Business Leaders’ Forum today.

In a question and answer session with Forum moderator Kerry O’Brien, Mr Creed said the company was undertaking “clean menu” labelling of ingredients, cutting artificial colourings and sodium (salt).

“There has been a dramatic change, and people do want to know what’s in their food. They want to know where it comes from,” Mr Creed said.

“I do think education is part of our role. We’re not suggesting our foods are an everyday, or every second day…It’s a balance and we have a responsibility and we will live up to our responsibility in that process.” 

Mr Creed said during the eight years he was in charge of Taco Bell, the brand dramatically reduced sodium content in its products, but it was not an achievement he highlighted.

“People said, 'Why wouldn’t you go out and take credit for reducing sodium by 1.5 million pounds [about 680,000 kg]?'

“And the answer is, if I do, then people will think the food tastes bad. We can’t stay in business if we don’t provide the customer what they want.

“People simply want things to be easy. I have pride in what we do and I believe we are trying to make food with more known ingredients.

“[And] the flip side of it is we do create a lot of jobs, and first-time jobs for people to enter the workforce. I think it is incumbent upon us to be transparent, which I believe we are, but I also think there is no silver bullet.”



Mr Creed, who graduated from QUT in 1977 when it was the Queensland Institute of Technology, told the packed audience at the Hilton Brisbane that despite not enjoying school or getting great marks, he found his passion at university – for marketing.

He became Yum! Brands head, or as Kerry O’Brien joked with him “chief enchilada”, in 2015 and outlined some of his key learnings during his 41-year career and leadership journey.

He believes great organisational culture delivers better business results, and the best leaders are those who are honest, who can be their “true authentic self”, who can build emotional connections, acknowledge the skills they don’t have and surround themselves with people who complement their skills to make a great team.

Using his own example, in a company which has more than 45,000 restaurants, he said, “I have been at Yum! for 24 years. I do not know how to run a restaurant. I know how to run a restaurant company.”

He said the three characteristics he looks for in a leader are “smart, heart and courage”, with courage particularly important in a rapidly changing society.

“As things change dramatically, the whole digitalisation of the world, all that’s occurring, as leaders we have to be courageous,” he said.

“You have to have the courage of your convictions … to know that that is where the business is going, that is where the future is and do you have the courage to go there.”

Mr Creed said the digital disruption impact in his organisation was “minimal” at this point, although kiosks were being incorporated into restaurants (“millennials tend to use kiosks”), and jobs were increasing (“five years ago there was a third of the number of people in IT who are in IT today”).

In an engaging address Mr Creed shared many anecdotes, including that he hates wearing a suit, has had some “doozies” of business failures, knew he was “destined for greatness” when he was made bin boy at primary school, and although he has been in the United States for many years and may never return to Queensland to live, he will always at heart remain “a Brissie boy”.

Prior to the QUT Business Leaders' Forum, Mr Creed attended a morning tea and met QUT Learning Potential Fund scholarship recipients. Through the QUT Inaugural Giving Day in May he donated $1 million to the fund, which supports students who would otherwise not be able to pursue a university education.

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