Project Description

Olivier Faujour

Global CEO of Yoplait and Häagen Dazs

After graduating, he has pursued a career in marketing. He worked for Michelin, Procter & Gamble, Danone and General Mills all around the world. Today he is global CEO of Yoplait and Häagen Dazs.

  • What was your initial plan when you graduated and what are you doing today?

After I graduated from ESCP in 1987, my initial goal was simply to do business and in particular marketing in an international environment.

Today, I am global CEO of Yoplait and Häagen Dazs. We are part of General Mills, which is the fifth largest food company in the world.


  • What was your first work experience?

My first work experience was actually being a steward for Air France for long-distance flights. It sounds funny, but for me it was a great opportunity to travel the world. This was my first step into the international world.

“I had the most fun in marketing. ”
  • You say you wanted to do marketing. How did you get interested in it?

My rule was to do something I would be able to enjoy. At the time when I was studying, a lot of students went into accounting or finance. Not because they liked it but because it was the most reputable major that would pay the highest salaries.

I didn’t want to follow this path. I really listened to what I liked in the courses and I remember that marketing was the one where I had the most fun. I liked to see how products were presented in shops, I liked advertising and I like different cultures.

So I chose marketing as a major and international management as a minor to complement it. During my last year at ESCP I did a three-months internship at Procter & Gamble in marketing and I knew that I really wanted to do it later on.


  • How did you get your first job at Michelin?

After I graduated from ESCP, I had to do military service. And in France there was this opportunity to do it in a French company abroad instead of doing it in the army.

I looked for French companies that offered a sales experience because I wanted to complement my marketing skills. I got the chance to be hired by Michelin in Canada as a territory manager. That was meeting my goal right after school. It was a sales experience combined with the opportunity to become fluent in English.

After that I came back to Procter & Gamble where I started at the marketing department as an assistant brand manager.


  • How would you describe your time at Procter & Gamble?

Procter & Gamble is a famous consumer goods company that managed to keep me excited for 12 years and made me move around the world. I worked at the marketing department in four different countries: France, Scandinavia, Portugal and Brazil.

I got promoted to Brand Manager at P&G in France after being an Assistant Brand Manager for 3 years at P&G France and Scandinavia. Then I went to Portugal because I wanted to continue my career outside my native country to experience new cultures and new market dynamics. Though it was a different country it was quite easy for me because it was still a European culture. It would have been much more difficult to move directly to Brazil where I had my last job for Procter & Gamble as a marketing director. In Brazil, I launched the whole portfolio of detergents.

“My first office was in my hotel room and I worked alone.”
  • How was your change to Danone and to more general management positions?

I had been selling detergents and house cleaning products for 12 years and I really wanted to experience something more. So I changed to the French food company Danone.

Marketing food is a very interesting area. Obviously it’s important because it contributes to health and nutrition, to pleasure; it’s an emotional product. And then I also wanted to experience a different culture from the US / Anglo-Saxon culture at P&G. I wanted to see how people work differently and I wanted to bring diversity to my career.


  • What were your stations within Danone?

At the beginning I was responsible for kid dairy products worldwide. It was a good way for me to get to know how the food business is and to learn about the organization internally as well.

Later I moved to China to launch Danone’s main brand, Activia, in East and South China. It was a very unusual experience. I had to take cultural training, as I did not know anything about China. But eventually the launch was successful and it opened us the door to the next country: South Korea. It was the only economy among the top 15 economies in the world where we were not present at all.

I always wanted to found my own company and this was finally a good opportunity. I thought it could be interesting and different. My first office was in my hotel room and I worked alone. After a few months we hired the first employees, took an office and we launched. Danone South Korea has now a market share close to 10% and I am very proud of what they are doing.

Though they are now our competitors because Yoplait is very present in South Korea as well, but I guess that’s life.

“There is no regular day.”
  • In 2010, you joined General Mills. How did you develop within the company since then?

General Mills is a US company and the fifth largest food company in the world. I was seduced by the fact that they wanted to expand aggressively to international markets and they were looking for people with international experience who could open new countries.

At the beginning I was a regional manager for France, Southern Europe and Benelux.

One year later General Mills acquired Yoplait, the second largest yoghurt brand in the world. I got the job as Global CEO for Yoplait because of my international experience (Europe/Asia) and my yogurt category expertise. Yoplait is sold in over 53 countries and it’s a very intriguing brand with naturalness and taste. It fits very much the current consumer demand.

Our goal was to grow Yoplait in almost every market and we have been able to enter China in June 2015. The brand wasn’t present at all there and now, after only six months, we have a market share of over 10%. In December 2015, Yoplait also made the acquisition of a yogurt player in Brazil to enter this large and strategic market. I enjoy managing things here.


  • What does a regular day look like as CEO of a billion dollar company?

There is no regular day. What all days have in common is that first they are all different. Second, they have some unpredictability. Third, I always have to deal with many diverse people.

I can have three hours with foreign engineers to review how to build a factory in Canada and then two hours with French unions. After that I spend two hours with an advertising agency in London to review what should be the next advertising in the UK, followed by a meeting with my Chinese colleagues to review the next products to be launched in Shanghai. I close the day with half an hour with my boss asking me for information about new markets.

“We got the Guinness World Record.”
  • What has been a highlight for you in your career so far?

I think one of my highlights has been how we conquered market leadership in the hand dish washing liquid market in Portugal when I was at P&G.

Our brand Fairy had been in the market for 20 years and had a 30% market share, way behind Colgate who had 50% market share. The consumers perceived Fairy as not economic enough because it was too concentrated. So we built a 5-kilometer long table on the Vasco De Gama, which is a very long bridge in Lisbon, and invited 15.000 guests to have lunch with us. We were able to clean all the dishes with tiny liquid portions out of a single product of Fairy. We got the Guinness World Record for the longest dinner table in the world and became market leader within six months.


  • Who came up with the idea?

It was an intern in the marketing department and I remember her saying “what if…” I think the achievement here is not the market leadership but more the concept of believing in your dreams. Sky is the limit. I had a great team, maybe a bit crazy to really believe that something like that could happen.

In the end, we had to go to the president of the Republic to get authorization because it was a public bridge. Everyone was there, TV, CNN, the team from Guinness World Record. The reason why we did it was because we had faith and enjoyed doing it.

And that’s my main advice to students. Do what you like and don’t try to invent a life that doesn’t look like yours. At ESCP, I knew I liked to see products in the shop, I liked advertising, I liked different cultures. I also met a few leaders in different functions and business sectors, some of them had “role model” jobs which inspired me and this also helped me think where I should work after ESCP.

So I said marketing in an international environment seems to be my thing. I built everything around it. But it takes time, it takes self-awareness, it takes thinking about yourself and at one point you will find it. Don’t be afraid to go to where you have the most fun. It’s where you will be the most successful in.


  • Thanks for sharing your story.