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Fortune has a fascinating piece about how many CEO changes there have been in the food industry over the past 18 months, in both the retail and supplier companies.

“Is this coincidence, or evidence of some meaningful moment in the nearly $1 trillion U.S. grocery industry? The answer,” Fortune writes, “may be a bit of both. Some of the CEOs were Big Food veterans just following the normal course of succession as they approached the age of 65. But for years now they had also been under an enormous amount of pressure…”

That pressure has built up because “the old tricks of the trade have stopped working” - the days have passed when economies of scale combined with population increases would lead to inevitable growth. Now, there is a multitude of new and nimble competition from all sides, consumers have more options (including online) than ever, and there is a growing mistrust of so-called “big food.”

As Kenny Rogers once sang, “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em.” Increasingly, CEOs are cashing out of the game.

You can read the entire story here.
KC's View:
I was talking to a friend of mine about this story, and she thought - with some justification - that “somebody needed to come up with a story and this article was the result! You could make a similar case for other industries as well. “

Which I think is true. But I do think that there is a line from the story that definitely deserves attention - that “the old tricks of the trade have stopped working.”

That’s an important recognition, but I have to wonder the degree to which that realization has sunk in, at least beyond the C-suite execs thinking about their retirement plans, or about spending more time with their families (without thinking about whether their families actually want to spend more time with them).

If it were, then there would more companies ending the practice of slotting allowances and promotional fees, which have them making money on the buy instead of the sell. There would be more retailers coming up with their own solutions to the problem that is Amazon Prime, which is amazingly targeted in terms of how it buses relevance to build loyalty. There would be a lot more failed initiatives, as retailers try things that don’t work but learn from those efforts.

I don’t see that happening. And the fact that this trend cuts across a lot of industries only makes me think that there are a lot of industries in which leadership is incapable of or unwilling to deal with disruption in meaningful ways.