Jeff Watters, 55, joined Ainsworth Pet Nutrition in 2009, working closely with company ownership for a decade to transform all aspects of the business model. During his tenure, the company drove category-leading top and bottom line growth and emerged as one of the top performing firms in the entire Consumer Packaged Goods sector. Ainsworth was acquired by the J.M. Smucker Company in May 2018.
As President and CEO of Ainsworth, Mr. Watters partnered with a talented Board and management team to lead a sweeping transformation of a 75 year-old, family-owned, regional Pet Products manufacturer into a disruptive national force in the large and competitive U.S. Pet category. In less than a decade, the company grew Gross Sales from approximately $200MM to $900MM and EBITDA from $8MM to $90MM.
Operational highlights included:
- A dramatic re-shaping of the legacy portfolio, highlighted by the build-out of a structurally advantaged super premium Brand, Rachael Ray Nutrish.
- The transformation of an outmoded Supply Chain, highlighted by the implementation of a LEAN-based operational improvement plan to optimize capability and capacity.
- The overhaul and upgrade of the leadership team through a combination of personnel moves and changes to scope, structure, and processes, resulting in markedly improved collaboration, accountability, and business performance.
- The adroit application of change management practices to evolve an insular, tradition-bound culture into an agile, purpose-driven organization. This effort included a relaunch of the legacy company’s Mission, Values, and human capital practices in support of an emboldened, market-facing Vision of Pet Store Quality, Supermarket Easy.
Mr. Watters came to Ainsworth from Del Monte Foods, where he served on the Executive Team for several years as Senior Vice President after joining in 2002 as part of a spinoff from the H.J. Heinz Company. Prior to his experience with Heinz and Del Monte, Mr. Watters worked in brand management with The Clorox Company, and sales and customer marketing with Kraft Foods Inc.
Mr. Watters earned an MBA from University of Maryland and a bachelor’s degree in Government from Hamilton College, where he played Varsity Soccer and Baseball. Mr. Watters serves on two professional boards and is a three-term elected Director on the Quaker Valley School Board in Sewickley, PA, where he resides with his wife and three children.
Jeff Watters has been a guest on 1 episode.
Sean Lang & Jeff Watters - Appointing a Non-Family CEO & Selling a 5th Generation Business
Episode | 19 September 2021 | Season 2 | 1 hr 9 mins
5th generation, exit, family business, family council, g5, outside leadership, selling, succession, transition, usa, ypo
The Lang family recruited Jeff Watters as the first outside CEO to lead Ainsworth Pet Nutrition in it's 5 generations. Sean Lang and Jeff Watters worked together, partnering with a private equity firm to scale the $100m per year business into a $2 billion dollar exit over the space of a decade.