In business since 1907—and still in the hands of its founding family—Nielsen-Massey Vanillas has built an enviable reputation for the quality and consistency of its pure vanillas and flavors. Their meticulously produced products are highly valued by culinary professionals around the world.

In 2017, the company’s third-generation family owners, Craig, Beth, and Matt Nielsen, established an outside board of directors to take Nielsen-Massey into its next phase of growth. In 2020, the board appointed a new CEO, Jonathan Thompson, and tasked him with leading this push forward.


  • Launched a two-week assessment period–led by a Korn Ferry Practice Director with a background in the food industry–to better understand the business, go deep into the challenges and collaborate on practical solutions.
  • Appointed a senior supply chain operations executive as the interim leader for the S&OP project who set up the processes, developed the KPI’s, coached the team and provided leadership to initiate an executive S&OP cadence within a few months.
  • Reconfigured the company’s organizational structure so that roles were more clearly defined and aligned the right people to the right roles. Added new permanent hires where needed.
  • Prioritized getting the new S&OP up and running and then pivoted to focus on other areas, such as embedding a culture of continuous improvement throughout Nielsen-Massey.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

“The wonderful thing about this project is that we were able to help Nielsen-Massey solve problems and deliver improvements almost from day one. We bring in people who’ve already done the job and know what they’re talking about. Our professionals take the time to get to know the organization and build trust, coaching and mentoring the business through momentous changes.”

Kelly Furstoss, Korn Ferry Practice Director

The challenge

A heritage business, with heritage processes

A CPG sector veteran, Thompson had been brought in with a vision to ‘capture the kitchen’ by expanding retail to the existing B2B ingredients and food service business model. His first two months in the job were spent developing strategy, and it quickly became clear that the back end of the business (sales and operations, particularly supply chain) wasn’t ready to handle that kind of growth.

The challenges were myriad. Their forecasting wasn’t in place, which is fundamental for a business driven by seasonal demand. Communications weren’t up to par: the right hand wasn’t talking to the left hand. The right people weren’t in the right roles – and those roles were not clearly defined. And the business wasn’t measuring the right things. For the leadership team, it wasn’t even clear where the business stood, and how far that was from where they needed to be.

One thing was certain: the company had to focus on operations before they started dedicating sales and marketing spend for their planned retail push. The back end needed an overhaul from soup to nuts. Thompson realized he would need outside help to get that transformation underway.

He also realized that he didn’t want to bring in a typical consultancy. He needed hands-on help from industry heavyweights with operational experience and ability, who could embed themselves in the business to completely reinvigorate Nielsen-Massey’s sales and operations planning (S&OP). Korn Ferry was the obvious choice.


Interim Executives & Professionals

Lasting change starts with temporary talent

The solution

An interim solution to lead the transformation

Korn Ferry's first move was to lead an in depth two-week assessment, sitting down with key people in Nielsen-Massey to ask the big questions and get their perspective on what was (and wasn’t) working in the business. Kelly Furstoss, a Korn Ferry Practice Director with extensive experience in food and consumer goods, led this part of the engagement.

From that initial assessment, we were able to scope out what it would take to get an effective S&OP process ‘stood up’ at Nielsen-Massey. We also looked at the organizational structure and how to get the right people and structures in place in order to address key gaps within their supply chain.

Next, we developed a “Fall Bake” supply chain plan for the company's busiest time of year when their product is most in demand. The plan focused on inventory, production and people, to ensure Nielsen-Massey was prepared to deliver on the crucial fall baking season.

To lead the transformation of S&OP processes, we placed an interim senior supply chain and operations executive, John McCarville. A veteran of supply chain management in the food industry, McCarville was ready to take the ball and run with it.

The engagement was highly collaborative, with McCarville working closely alongside Thompson and the other members of Nielsen-Massey’s leadership team. McCarville embedded himself deeply in the business, becoming a de facto member of the team and getting to know people at every level. Nielsen-Massey was also able to find and appoint a permanent VP of supply chain and operations to continue the work, and McCarville provided invaluable mentorship to guide her through her start at the company.


Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

“The people we worked with from Korn Ferry had the seniority and expertise we needed. I still have folks on my team saying, ‘thank you so much for bringing them in, I grew so much professionally while I was working with them’, which is a great endorsement. Just look at where we are now. Being able to call on that kind of battle star credibility is really cool, and it works.”

Jonathan Thompson, CEO, Nielsen-Massey Vanillas

Improvements in S&OP across the company

  • icon


    Forecast accuracy

  • icon


    Decrease in overtime

  • icon


    Decrease in customer complaints

  • icon


    Increase in OTIF, up from 73%


Fixing operations pays dividends

Putting an executive S&OP process in place has resulted in enormous benefits for Nielsen-Massey. Reducing chargebacks and creating operational efficiencies across the business has resulted in cost savings and a big effect on the bottom line.

For Thompson, one of the biggest wins has been the lift in service levels. By improving back-end processes and visibility so significantly, Nielsen-Massey has been able to raise its service levels from somewhere in the 70% region to consistently over 97%, which means they’re able to start selling through big, demanding retailers like Walmart and Amazon. The business is now in a great place to grab a slice of the home baking market.

And even though the optimized S&OP is now successfully up and running alongside a KPI scorecard developed alongside our team, McCarville is continuing his work with Nielsen-Massey. He’s currently helping them embed a culture of continuous improvement and working with Nielsen-Massey’s Netherlands plant to align their culture and processes with their US colleagues.

Another huge benefit for Thompson has been the culture shift within Nielsen-Massey, by embedding a continuous improvement mindset that didn’t exist before. Even after all aspects of the project were complete and our team stepped away, S&OP meetings continue to show things getting better every day. The executive team can now make clearer smarter decisions, because they have the visibility they were lacking before.


Let us be part of your success story

Contact us to learn how interim professionals can support your business needs