William R. Johnson is Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the H. J. Heinz Company, a global food company with sales approaching $12 billion and iconic brands, businesses and operations across six continents.
Under Mr. Johnson’s leadership, Heinz has accelerated its growth in Emerging Markets and transformed its global portfolio of high-quality brands to focus on three core categories: Ketchup & Sauces, Meals & Snacks, and Infant/Nutrition.
Reflecting his strong commitment to delivering sustainable growth for Heinz shareholders, Heinz has become one of the best-performing global companies in the packaged foods industry and delivered solid dividend growth and consistently strong operating free cash flow during Mr. Johnson’s tenure. To enhance future growth, Heinz is also driving innovation and new product development and leveraging its global scale, with a focus on making the Company even more productive, efficient and competitive in years to come.
Overall, Heinz has number-one and number-two brands in 50 countries, led by Heinz® brand products, which are marketed around the world and account for approximately $4 billion in annual sales. Global sales of Heinz® Ketchup, the Company’s flagship product, have grown during Mr. Johnson’s tenure as Heinz holds the number-one position in 7 of the world’s Top 10 ketchup markets.
In addition to the Heinz® brand, the Company’s Top 15 brands include: Ore-Ida®, T.G.I. Fridays®, Weight Watchers® Smart Ones®, and Classico® in North America; Plasmon®, Honig®, Pudliszki® and Weight Watchers ® from Heinz in Europe; Watties® in New Zealand; Golden Circle in Australia; ABC® in Indonesia; Complan® in India; and two Emerging Market brands that were acquired at Mr. Johnson’s direction in Fiscal 2011: Quero®, a leading brand of tomato sauces, ketchup and vegetables in Brazil; and Master ®, a leading brand of soy sauce in China.
In a career spanning 30 years with Heinz, Mr. Johnson is the fifth Chairman in the history of the Company, which is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Company founder Henry John Heinz started the business in 1869.
He joined Heinz in 1982 as General Manager - New Businesses for Heinz USA. In 1984, he was promoted to Vice President - Marketing for Ketchup, Foodservice and Sauces. He was named President and CEO of Heinz Pet Products in 1988, and assumed leadership of Star-Kist Foods, Inc., in May 1992, when the pet food business and Star-Kist were reunited. These businesses were spun off and merged with Del Monte Foods in December 2002.
In 1993, Mr. Johnson was named Senior Vice President of Heinz and joined the company's Board of Directors. His responsibilities included Heinz operations in the Asia/Pacific area, including Australia, New Zealand, China, Thailand and South Korea, in addition to the canned tuna and pet food businesses of Star-Kist Foods, Inc.
Mr. Johnson became President and Chief Operating Officer of Heinz in June 1996, and assumed the position of President and Chief Executive Officer on April 30, 1998. He was named Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer on September 12, 2000.
An active supporter of community organizations, he has served as a member of the national Athena Awards committee, chaired the 2001 annual campaign for the United Way of Western Pennsylvania, co-chaired the capital campaign in 2009 to raise funds for the new Ronald McDonald House in Pittsburgh, and chaired numerous local events including the 2004 Pittsburgh Cultural Trust gala event. In 2006, he received the inaugural Global Visionary Award from Helen Keller International for Heinz’s micronutrient program for combating childhood anemia. He also received the Marco Polo Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Chinese government on foreign business leaders, for Heinz’s support of the development of the Chinese food industry.
Mr. Johnson also commissioned a Heinz study on leadership that led to the 2010 publication of the book, “Preparing CEO’s for Success.” Proceeds from the book sales were donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities, Inc.
Mr. Johnson is a member of the Board of Directors of both Emerson and UPS. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Grocery Manufacturers of America. Mr. Johnson was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas on October 26, 2007.
Mr. Johnson earned his undergraduate degree from UCLA and his MBA from the University of Texas. He and his wife, Susie, have a son, Brad, and a daughter, Tracy.