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The Rise of the Chief Growth Officer

23rd Apr 2024


The CPG/FMCG sector is experiencing immense disruption from conscious consumerism, supply chain volatility, retailer consolidation, and the direct-to-consumer e-commerce trend. Legacy brands can no longer rely on their distribution power – they must stay hyper-focused on driving growth through innovation.

In recent years, a new C-suite role has emerged in many organisations, particularly in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry: the Chief Growth Officer (CGO). This position was created to drive sustainable growth strategies and revenue expansion initiatives across an enterprise.

The emergence of the Chief Growth Officer position gained momentum in the late 2010s as companies across industries recognised the need for dedicated C-suite leaders focused specifically on driving enterprise-wide growth strategies and initiatives.

While the specific responsibilities can vary, a Chief Growth Officer is generally accountable for identifying new growth opportunities, developing innovative go-to-market strategies, and optimising the sales and marketing functions to capture greater market share. They analyse market trends, consumer data, and competitive landscapes to recommend strategic priorities.

The CGO role evolved from the more traditional strategy director position. However, it goes beyond just developing a strategic plan – it executes on those growth initiatives cross-functionally. CGOs are active change agents leading corporate growth through new products, markets, channels, and business models.

Some of the key drivers behind the rise of CGOs include:

  1. Disruption and rapidly changing markets – With digital transformation, the explosion of data/analytics capabilities, shifting consumer behaviours, and constant competitive threats, businesses needed agile growth leadership to stay ahead of disruption.
  1. Need for innovation – CGOs were tasked with identifying new products, services, business models, and go-to-market approaches to spur innovation and uncover new growth avenues beyond core offerings.
  1. Breaking down organizational silos – Growth opportunities increasingly spanned multiple business units and functions. CGOs provided the cross-functional oversight and leadership to align disparate teams around holistic growth plans.
  1. Investor demands – With intense shareholder pressure for sustained revenue/profit growth, CGOs became responsible for devising strategies to deliver against elevated financial growth targets.

While Chief Marketing Officers focused on brand-building and Chief Strategy Officers developed high-level strategic plans, Chief Growth Officers embodied a more comprehensive blend of strategy, marketing, sales, product, analytics and execution toward tangible growth outcomes.

Early CGO hiring was particularly pronounced in sectors facing immense market disruption – technology, consumer goods/retail, financial services, healthcare, etc. Companies hoped CGOs could uncover new growth engines before being disrupted themselves.

By 2020, major firms like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Mars Inc., Adobe, Hershey’s and others had appointed Chief Growth Officers. The role was seen as critical for driving transformational growth through expanded capabilities, innovative products/services and optimised commercialization models.

The Future Is Here

As business conditions grow increasingly volatile and competitive, FMCG organizations must stay attuned to emerging best practices in agile strategizing and growth enablement. The Chief Growth Officer represents an important organizational design pivot to drive future-focused enterprise expansion and are here to stay and may soon become as ubiquitous as Chief Marketing Officers across the CPG industry and beyond.

If you’d like to understand more about emerging roles and trends, please do get in touch.   With over 20 years of experience working with global consumer organisations, we keep ahead of the market trends across emerging senior executive roles.

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