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USA Today reports on a wide-ranging interview with Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld. Excerpts:

The recession’s silver lining: “The great news is that as the economy has softened around the world, we're seeing people eating more at home. And as they come home, they're coming home to Kraft. So we are battening down our hatches and preparing to continue to compete in a difficult environment … We're certainly seeing (strength in) products that provide obvious value: powdered beverages like Kool-Aid and Crystal Light, for example, in comparison to ready-to-drink alternatives. We're finding that people are eating grilled cheese a lot more.

We're seeing products like DiGiorno pizza, in contrast to pizzeria pizza or restaurant pizza, are performing quite well. Even products like Oscar Mayer meats are having a resurgence. People are eating hot dogs more for dinner.”

An example of Kraft’s corporate transformation: “One of the things that has been most helpful to us as we are transforming Kraft is to unleash the power to our people.

“For example, there's a guy in our Canadian operation who has a passion for Halal products. He practices Halal himself and adheres to the dietary restrictions of the Muslim religion. He has been a terrific advocate of our opportunity to make more of our products available to those consumers. He has single-handedly taken on the task, laying out a business proposition, talking to the sales group about what they need. And we should have some products I would hope in the course of the next year in that market place.”

On marketing: “We've definitely shifted to more of a value story. So far, it's serving us quite well … As we continue to look for opportunities for a mass message, TV is one of the cheapest vehicles around.

“Increasingly, though, that's not where people are spending their time. I had an opportunity at lunch today to talk with a number of students, and increasingly they're turning to digital media and the Internet for their information. Even in developing markets, we're seeing the growth of digital communication is proceeding at a very rapid pace. And that's where we're putting our money.”

On the private label threat: “For too long we in the U.S. — and I would say, quite frankly, we at Kraft — did not take seriously the private-label threat. We are working with our customers to create win-win economic propositions so their private labels can thrive at the same time that our branded products can thrive.

“The good news is, in many cases, our products will still drive category demand, and the investments we're making in marketing and new product development have everything to do with the growth of those categories. That's what will continue to keep us healthy over time.”

KC's View:
Tell you one thing. We’ve had more grilled cheese sandwiches in the past month in the Coupe household than in the past two years.

So she’s got that right.

Also, I love the Halal story. That’s the kind of grass roots innovation that I think ought to be a model for more organizations.