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Q&A: How Premier Nutrition grows talent through collaboration and gives back to the community

Premier Nutrition Corporation President Darcy Horn Davenport discusses how cultivating a corporate culture that encourages collaboration and giving back to the community helps PNC nurture talent and stay competitive in the active nutrition category.

8 min read


Q&A: How Premier Nutrition grows talent through collaboration and gives back to the community

Premier Nutrition Corporation

This post is sponsored by Premier Nutrition Corporation.

Premier Nutrition Corporation President Darcy Horn Davenport started at the Bay Area company in 2009, when it had only 15 employees and one brand. Today, the company encompasses four brands and is continuing to add new positions to grow its staff of talented professionals with a common goal of bringing good energy to the world. Horn Davenport discusses how PNC has changed over the years and why the company’s culture of collaboration, community giving and celebrating wins big and small is key to its success.

Horn Davenport

You’ve been with the company since 2009 and have seen the staff grow from 15 people to more than 125. What has stayed the same since the early days and what has changed since the company has grown?

When I started working at PNC as the director of marketing in 2009, the company had 15 employees, one brand (Joint Juice) and three customers. PNC now has four brands and hundreds of products that are available virtually everywhere nutrition products are sold. The company’s four brands, Premier Protein, PowerBar, Supreme Protein and Joint Juice, have products ranging from RTD protein shakes and clear beverages to nutrition bars and protein powders. The other significant change is that PNC is now part of the Active Nutrition division of Post Holdings, Inc. The division continues to be a growth engine of Post Holdings, with net sales in excess of $700 million in fiscal 2017, with growth of 24% over the prior year. A big driver of the sales increase is due to Premier Protein, which increased 50% in fiscal 2017.  

The one constant throughout my eight years is the people who work at PNC and the culture. Since the beginning, PNC was filled with entrepreneurial builders (as the company calls them) full of passion for the category and who truly live the brands.

How have recruitment and career development strategies at PNC changed as the company has grown?

As PNC grows in business size and product offerings, the company continues to add new positions ranging from entry-level to senior leadership. Last year PNC added 30 new people and is set to add another 30 or more in 2018, so the company’s challenge is to find ‘top 10-percenters’ who also fit with PNC’s culture. At PNC, the candidates that genuinely have a passion for leading a healthy, active lifestyle stand out. Whether it’s hiking, strength-training, cycling or running a marathon, the majority of PNC team members enjoy being active and healthy, so the company looks for candidates whose values align with its values of being champions of positive nutrition.

How do PNC’s values and mission of bringing good energy to the world come to life in the halls of PNC as well as in day to day business activities?

The day-to-day working atmosphere at PNC is positive, supportive, energetic and team-oriented. PNC definitely has a ‘people first’ culture. The company treats its employees and customers with respect and empathy, and believes that if people really know each other, they will be more effective working together. PNC welcomes new and innovative ideas from employees and empowers passion projects, including everything from welcoming dogs at the office to launching and growing company philanthropy and sustainability programs.

People are PNC’s most important asset and the company goes to great lengths to empower and inspire them. I can honestly say the company embraces and lives the healthy lifestyle its products promote for its consumers. Whether through fitness classes at the office gym or through company-wide health challenges, PNC employees bond with each other, challenge themselves, and are encouraged by senior management to lead healthy, active lifestyles.

Furthermore, PNC strives to make company meetings engaging and fun. For example, every Monday at 9 a.m., the entire company congregates for a Morning Protein Boost. A new protein shake recipe is on display for people to sip and enjoy as updates are shared from each department. The PNC staff discusses successes and challenges from the past week, what’s ahead and also celebrates employee achievements, both personal and professional. Each quarter, PNC holds a State of the Company event where the entire company gets together to review the status of where the company is earnings-wise. Afterward, the team does something fun, such as a biking over the Golden Gate Bridge, going to a San Francisco Giants game or a taking a trip to Tilden Park to play kickball.

I don’t believe celebrations should be reserved for only the biggest milestones in both business and personal lives. Big and small wins — from a new product launch to personal milestones like a wedding —  are also recognized by “ringing the bell,” a huge cow bell situated in the middle of the office to bring everyone together for good news.

When you put all of these elements together, you get a community that challenges you professionally yet supports you emotionally and even physically! Representative of this holistic impact on the team’s lives, PNC was certified by Great Place to Work in 2017, a certification the company is extremely proud of as it’s based on feedback from current employees. I’ve seen PNC employees become the company’s biggest champions, sharing opportunities with their personal and professional networks.

PNC’s PowerBar and Premier Protein brands have been able to stay fresh through innovations such as Premier Protein CLEAR Protein Drinks. How does PNC foster a culture of innovation and encourage employees to think outside the box and raise the bar?

The active nutrition category is incredibly competitive, so staying ahead of trends and making PNC’s brands adaptable is more important than ever. In 2017, PowerBar launched its Clean Start campaign, which is an ongoing effort to evolve the product portfolio with cleaner ingredient labels and great tasting products. Earlier this year, PNC launched its first ever plant-based protein snack bar in response to active individuals wanting alternative sources of protein, including PNC customers. The PowerBar Plant Protein Bars are made of simple ingredients such as cashews, almonds or peanuts (depending on the flavor), pea protein crisps and rice protein crisps. Also in 2017, PNC recognized the consumer need for truly refreshing, lean protein drinks. It immediately dove into addressing this consumer need, and created and launched Premier Protein Clear drinks.

A key factor to fostering innovative thinking is PNC’s team-oriented culture — employees know they are better together. By valuing what everyone brings to the table, employees are encouraged to share their ideas, which ultimately leads to better collaboration and innovative ideas. The leadership team also encourages employees to get outside their comfort zones, which leads to accelerated personal growth trajectory, and the opportunity to work alongside and learn from other teams.

A key component of the company culture at PNC is giving back to the community. What types of community projects do PNC employees participate in, and why is corporate social responsibility important to the company?

One of my favorite things about PNC is the employees’ passion and efforts to bring good energy to the world goes beyond the four walls of the PNC office. No matter how busy PNC employees are, they leave their desks twice a year to give back to the community together, as an entire company, partnering with a local Bay Area charity or cause. Just last month, the entire company biked through wine country to raise $6,000 for wildfire relief, in addition to product and supply donations. I am excited to announce PNC is rolling out an expanded corporate philanthropy program in 2018 which will include doubling the number of philanthropic partners and donating a total of $80,000 to two charitable organizations voted on by all PNC employees, a Volunteer Grants Program to provide monetary incentive for PNC employees to volunteer and continued local give-back days.

Darcy Horn Davenport is the president of Premier Nutrition Corporation. She joined the Premier Team in 2009.  Before moving into General Management, she led the marketing function.  Horn Davenport has more than 20 years of CPG experience, starting her career in finance but quickly moving into brand management where she led various top tier brands.  When she is not at work, she spends as much time as possible with her family, chasing her two young kids around and trying to fit in a yoga class or hike on Mt. Tam.  She is a Certified Public Accountant, holds a Bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and an MBA from NYU’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove information about a product line that is no longer available.


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