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The Kraft Heinz Co (NASDAQ:KHC)
Q3 2021 Earnings Call
Oct 27, 2021, 9:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good day, and thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Kraft Heinz Company Third Quarter 2021 Results Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to hand the conference over to your host today, Chris Jakubik, Head of Global Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Christopher M. Jakubik -- Head of Global Investor Relations

Thank you, and hello, everyone. This is Chris Jakubik, Head of Global Investor Relations at The Kraft Heinz Company, and welcome to our Q&A session for our third quarter 2021 business update. During our remarks today, we will make some forward-looking statements that are based on how we see things today. Actual results may differ due to risks and uncertainties, and these are discussed in our earnings release and our filings with the SEC. We will also discuss some non-GAAP financial measures today during the call, and these non-GAAP financial measures should not be considered a replacement for and should be read together with GAAP results. And you can find the GAAP to non-GAAP reconciliations within our earnings release and the supplemental materials posted at ir.kraftheinzcompany.com. Before we begin, I'm going to hand it over to our CEO, Miguel Patricio, for a few quick opening comments. Miguel?

Miguel Patricio -- Chief Executive Officer & Director

Thank you, Chris, and good morning, everyone. I would just like to start by sharing how encouraging it is for us to see our company leaning into a scale and agility that we have been talking about for some time, addressing short-term challenges at the same time that we are building the long-term advantage. We are today a much stronger company, and we are better positioned to address inflation that we are seeing. We are taking actions now to protect profitability through 2022, and our actions are not just pricing. We are also implementing price-pack architecture, value engineering and leveraging our scale in procurement. At the same time, our team has continued transforming our business for long-term growth and advantage. Our momentum with the consumer is strong and our consumer-focused, platform-based approach is taking us to new occasions. We continue to invest to improve relevance of our brands. We are making greater, more creative market investments. And at the same time, we are building agility that will deliver the $2 billion of gross efficiencies and looking to unlock more. We are continuing to pay down debt and improve our net leverage and we continue to invest in our most important assets, our people. And as we mentioned in our remarks, we have done all of this while delivering better 2021 results than previously expected, which speaks to the strength of our business. Well, with that, let's take your questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] And our first question comes from the line of Andrew Lazar with Barclays. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

Andrew Lazar -- Barclays Bank PLC -- Analyst

Great, thanks so much. My question is actually for Rafa, if I could. We've been taking a look at some Nielsen trends in some key food categories in the U.S. and Western Europe. And while consumption obviously in the U.S. has certainly remained elevated, trends, at least in some categories in Europe, seem to be decelerating meaningfully, or I guess, normalizing is a better word for it, as those markets reopen at a faster pace than what we've seen here in the U.S. So I'm curious if KHC has seen this dynamic play out at all for the company. And if you see maybe certain trends in Europe as a fair leading indicator of what's to come in the U.S. around stickiness of demand, or if maybe there are some differences suggesting that's not a great set of data points to necessarily use to compare. Thanks so much.

Rafael de Oliveira -- Zone President of International

Andrew, Rafa here. Thanks for the question. I mean from an overall market perspective in Western Europe, we have seen indeed more of a return to pre-pandemic consumption patterns than in other developed markets. That said, I mean it varies quite a bit per category, and we are seeing much greater stickiness in our Taste Elevation platforms as the consumers kind of continue to look to us to elevate their meals, right? And this is quite positive, to be honest, to us, because if you recall, I mean, we have three key pillars on our international growth strategy: our Taste Elevation platform; emerging markets; and foodservice channel, right? So this demand stickiness in Taste Elevation, I mean, we continue to see favorable levels of consumption, growth and absolute terms on the platform and which is a platform we are focusing at, right? So we continue to see Taste Elevation demand sustaining. And in foodservice, in particular, Western Europe is rebounding very fast. I mean it's approaching 2019 levels. So -- and on top of this, we have been gaining our share in almost every market we operate in foodservice, right? So it's another strength. So as I said, overall, it's true as most of the market is coming back to pre-pandemic. In some platforms, they continue to be very strong and that has played out favorably for us, Taste Elevation.

Andrew Lazar -- Barclays Bank PLC -- Analyst

Great, thanks very much.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Jason English with Goldman Sachs. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

Jason M. English -- Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. -- Analyst

Thanks folks. [Indecipherable] you me in. I guess I'll lean into price a little bit. You reiterated the comment today that -- or in the prepared remarks that you expect the price to catch up with cost by the end of the year. Can you confirm that that's not just ingredient costs, but that's sort of the total supply chain pressure? And then looking at Slide eight, is it fair to look at that as sort of a price index? So to say you came into the year with an index around 103 and you plan to exit a bit north of 106, you'll be carrying around three points of price into next year? Or is that 106 a bit of an average and the real exit rate is closer to 107 or 108? Thanks.

Paulo Luiz Araujo Basilio -- Global Chief Financial Officer

Hi Jason, Paulo here. Let me try to help with this question. We expect to see a similar level of inflation at the beginning of '22 as we're seeing now in the second half of '21, OK? Most of the inflation that we're going to see is carryover for '21. We expect to enter '22 having executed the price plan that protects our profitability from current levels of cost -- current levels of costs that we are seeing now. And this should address the inflation that we expect in '22, OK? So we are seeing our execution of pricing, protecting our profitability, given the cost levels that we're seeing now and this should protect our profitability when we enter into '22.

Jason M. English -- Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. -- Analyst

Okay. So we're probably looking at something closer to a mid-single-digit pricing as we enter next year if you're carrying high single digit as a percentage of COGS. That's just the math on that, is that unreasonable?

Paulo Luiz Araujo Basilio -- Global Chief Financial Officer

Listen, I don't want to get into the act of forecasting our pricing. But I can tell you that the actions that we are taking now will protect the inflation that we are seeing and it will protect our profitability from this inflation that we are seeing in the current cost levels, and this could put us in a good position to enter '22.

Miguel Patricio -- Chief Executive Officer & Director

Just complementing what Paulo is saying. I think that if eventually more inflation comes, well, we'll have to take action.

Jason M. English -- Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. -- Analyst

Sure. Sure. It makes sense. It makes sense. And congrats on the pricing success so far. It's better than I expected.

Miguel Patricio -- Chief Executive Officer & Director

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Pamela Kaufman with Morgan Stanley. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

Pamela Kaufman -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Hi good morning. Can you elaborate on what drove the sequential softening in market share trends that you highlighted? Has that primarily been driven by the capacity constraints? Or have there been other competitive dynamics contributing to the share performance? And then how are you addressing the capacity constraints that you highlighted? And I guess what do you see is driving improved share performance going forward?

Carlos A. Abrams-Rivera -- U.S. Zone President

Let me -- thank you, Pamela, for the question. I imagine a lot of those questions you had in there. I think there were three accounted, but they were related to the U.S., so I'll take it. I guess for me, I would say, yes, first of all, the way I think about the business is we want to make sure we continue to drive household penetration and repeat rates, which we are doing. And -- well, there were some short-term share pressures in during the back-to-school as really the demand really outgrew our capacity in a few categories. Over the long term, the fact that we are driving household penetration and repeat rates shows the strength of our portfolio and interest of our business and how we are actually managed through all that. But I would say, yes, to that. I'm very much focused on making sure that we win by maximizing the controllables. And our recipe for winning is to essentially consistently focus on satisfying the consumer needs better than anyone else, and it doesn't matter exactly what's happening at this particular moment. As we go forward, I'll tell you, I see three specific advantage that for us, it's going to be our play in which we're going to win. We have continued to renovate our portfolio. We have controlled the cost in our brands so that we can optimize the value with our -- for our consumers.

And really, that is the best recipe for us to kind of withstand against anyone else coming, any competition that comes in. And essentially, what we're doing, we are increasing the equation of what it's worth buying for at the shelf. The second advantage we have also is we're making sure that we are differentiated at each rung of a price ladder, whether it's entry to mainstream, to premium, so that consumers can stay within our franchise even as their circumstances might change. And if you think about Mac & Cheese, we've got everywhere from an Easy Mac to the original version for consumers. And then the third piece I would say is, we are transforming our portfolio through all these divestitures that actually have significantly reduced our private label exposure. So we have continued to renovate and manage our cost.

We have continued to bring -- making sure that we have differentiated products within our categories, no matter what the circumstances of the consumers are. And we have a portfolio that is much reduced versus private label. And frankly, we continue to see opportunities to capture profitable growth, focusing on our consumer platforms. So we are executing with excellence and leveraging this broad renovation, innovation and the rest of creating that our teams are doing. I think, Pamela, you also spoke -- a part of your question dealt about the supply chain constraints that we're seeing. I think the way I would look at it is across the industry, we are seeing a supply chain that is being tested on a daily basis. But what I will say is our supply chain team has been very agile, taking advantage of our global scale. We're showing agility in labor, in manufacturing, in logistics.

And I'll give you some examples of what I mean. We are reducing the amount of time to hire and significantly increase the applicant pool by leveraging new digital tools at Kraft Heinz. We are improving the flexibility in terms of the materials that are available with really an ownership mindset across sales, procurement and manufacturing. And those things will change in our plans, 39 of them across the U.S., sometimes on a weekly basis. And then in logistics, we've actually increased the throughput on warehouses by shifting more of how we operate 24/7 and increasing the automation since the pre-pandemic time. So having said that, I will tell you that we do have a good line of sight of continuing to improve our customer service levels as we move forward. And because, frankly, restoring the top-tier customer service to the pre-pandemic level is a continued focus for us and entire team. And thanks for your question, Pamela.

Miguel Patricio -- Chief Executive Officer & Director

Pamela, you also asked about moving forward in terms of capacity. On top of everything that Carlos is saying, I just want to add that we have been adding capacity. We increased substantially our Heinz ketchup capacity; Mac & Cheese; on frozen snacks, Delimex and Bagel Bites; on Claussen cucumbers; on meal; and on kids' juices. So it's -- this investment in capacity is a great proof on our belief about the demand for our products in the future.

Pamela Kaufman -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Great thank you, very helpful.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Bryan Spillane with Bank of America. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

Bryan Douglass Spillane -- BofA Securities -- Analyst

Hi thanks operator, good morning everyone. So my question is, I guess, tied to some of these themes here, just in terms of inflation and pricing and margins. And maybe if we could just step back pre -- all of this inflation and pre-COVID, right, there was a transformation in your supply chain, which -- that work has started. And as we kind of look at gross margins or profitability at the gross profit line, you've held up pretty well, right, relative to your peers, if anything, probably a little bit better. So I guess, as we're kind of thinking about profitability going forward, knowing that there's some pricing that's coming through to cover inflation. But how much are you also still benefiting incrementally from some of the supply chain work you've done? And how much of that is going to be also a contributor to helping to offset all of the inflation and supply chain disruptions?

Miguel Patricio -- Chief Executive Officer & Director

So Bryan, let me start here and then we can maybe build -- someone else here can build on top of my answer. What you said is true, like when we come back to when the time that in 2019, when we disclosed our strategy, beginning of 2020, the -- we were very focused on improving our gross profit over time. And in order to do that, we developed many programs in terms of efficiencies in supply chain, in terms of focusing on leads. Also pricing -- new pricing strategy and revenue management strategy, and this is taking place. You can see that today, with all the inflationary pressure that we're seeing and the gap that we have in between the pricing realization and the cost inflation, we are keeping the gross profit margin the same level that we have at pre-pandemic. And this gives us a lot of confidence in our plan going forward. So I would say that our strategy to improve profitability to gross profit margin is working.

Carlos A. Abrams-Rivera -- U.S. Zone President

Yes. What I would add, too, and you think about our overall progress in our transformation, it's both in terms of some of the things that you heard from Miguel earlier. We are, in fact, making a significant push on fast track and critical projects in our capacity. So I think Miguel gave you some examples, I'll give you a couple more, which is if you think about ketchup, the fact that in Heinz, Dip & Squeeze kind of such a small package, we have nearly doubled our capacity by the end of next year. If you think about Mac & Cheese, by the second half of next year, we've actually increased about 20% of our cups capacity. And even in frozen snacks, by -- also by second half of next year, we will have increased about 1/3 of our capacity in areas like Delimex. And -- so both across -- these are some of the examples of things that we saw earlier in the pandemic, we may fast track in our projects, and we continue to do that. More work to do ahead. The other way I look at it is in terms of our -- how do we make sure we get more of our utilization of our assets. And for me, things like improving our OEE, which we have now done '20 versus '21 -- I'm sorry, '20 versus '19, '21 versus '20, it is also the way that we're going to continue to make sure that as we go forward, we attack it in both ways, making sure that we are being smart about investing in our capacity, and that we are getting more of our assets through improvements in our OEE. So thanks for your question, Bryan.

Bryan Douglass Spillane -- BofA Securities -- Analyst

Alright thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Robert Moskow with Credit Suisse. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

Robert Bain Moskow -- Credit Suisse AG -- Analyst

Hi thanks, I just wanted to try to square the outlook for 2022 slide with your comments about pricing catching up to costs. Because if pricing is really catching up to costs, that would imply that your EBITDA growth on a core basis, ex divestitures, should be able to grow in 2022. So if you're confident enough that the pricing is really catching up, why not take the extra step and talk about it in your outlook? As it stands, the slide is pretty general. It says that things are going to be stronger than you thought post pandemic. But I'm not quite sure it points to EBITDA growth on a core basis yet.

Paulo Luiz Araujo Basilio -- Global Chief Financial Officer

Hi Rob, so let me start saying that we are not providing guidance for '22, and we are not providing also at this time any outlook for '22 besides the one that we shared. We can say that we are very confident with our path, and we are very confident about our ability to retain consumers and retain volume that we are having today. And we are also confident in our ability to sustain the strong margins that we have. We -- our focus here is to protect the margin dollars from inflation, as we mentioned. And again, to give you a little bit more color, you can say that, and also we share that in Q3, and we discussed that in Q3, we had lower than run rate percentage margins. And we expect these margins to improve as price realization comes, but that is as far as we go in 2022. We are very confident with the fact that we have -- we are in a better space. We're a better company in a better space with stronger consumption and with confidence in our ability to price the short-term inflation that we are seeing.

Robert Bain Moskow -- Credit Suisse AG -- Analyst

Ok, well I appreciate it, thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Chris Growe with Stifel. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

Christopher Robert Growe -- Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated -- Analyst

Hi good morning, I just had a question for you in relation to promotions, and you've talked about how you're rebuilding promotions in your business, especially in the U.S. I think you talked about a normalized promotional environment. So I just want to understand, and this kind of gets back to a degree around pricing, as you recover promotions, especially against the period a year ago, where they were lower, can you achieve price realization on a net basis that offsets inflation? And maybe related to that, would that rebuilding a promotion, recovering promotion, continue in the first half of 2022, maybe a bit of an offset to the pricing you're taking at retail?

Paulo Luiz Araujo Basilio -- Global Chief Financial Officer

So Chris, let me answer that and try to explain, I think, a couple of things you mentioned in your question. First, let me just put in the context of the transformation that we've been having here in Kraft Heinz. I mean, if you think back, a critical aspect of our transformation is a consumer-first approach to all that we do, so -- which essentially is why our plan is to invest behind our consumer platforms during those event windows where actually consumers are looking to us for solutions. So if we think about the gains that we have made so far, the fact that we have continued to drive brand household penetration and repeat rate, it is exactly because we have done that. We have been able to make sure that in moments during the year that consumers are looking for those specific solutions that we can offer, essentially the scale of what we -- of our products in a way that satisfies the needs better than anyone else. And we have been and expect to be, as we look into 2022, more active with better execution than 2020 during this critical windows, but clearly not as deep as we were in 2019. And frankly, we continue to see opportunities to capture that growth. So as we are going to move forward, we are going to remain diligent on making sure it satisfies our consumer needs better than everyone else, guided by our platform and our renewed focus on making sure that, again, everything we do as part of our transformation with that consumer-first approach. Thank you.

Christopher Robert Growe -- Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Alexia Howard with Bernstein. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

Alexia Jane Burland Howard -- Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC -- Analyst

Good morning everyone. Okay, so in your prepared remarks, you alluded to an appetite for more acquisitions in the emerging markets. I think you referenced the Assan Foods and the Hemmer deals that you've done so far. Can you talk a little bit about what additional or where you're focused in terms of potential future deals? Are there particular categories, particular regions that you're looking at? Can you say anything about the kind of scale of the pipeline in terms of would you be looking just at tuck-ins or potentially something more medium size? [Indecipherable]

Miguel Patricio -- Chief Executive Officer & Director

Sure. Sure, Alexia. Maybe I can comment and then give the word to Rafael since he is responsible for emerging markets, among other things. We have, of course, today a portfolio that is better than we had two years ago, and a much stronger balance sheet. And with that comes more flexibility, right? And you are right, I think that if we have opportunities for acquisitions, we'll look at them, and always with price discipline. We like a lot to follow our strategy. And as a consequence, Taste Elevation, which is really one of the critical strategic pillars of the strategy of the international zone, is in the place where we are looking for opportunities. And that helps also Foodservice business. So like the Assan business in Turkey that we acquired is a leading company in foodservice, and we expect to grow to the retailers with that base in Turkey as well. And I'll give the microphone, the word to Rafael, so he can give you more color about areas that we are looking at.

Rafael de Oliveira -- Zone President of International

Yes. I mean the reason we are so excited about Assan, about Hemmer is exactly, as Miguel said, its own strategy, right? They are, I mean, strong margin categories in the right countries. As you said, Taste Elevation and emerging markets, those are -- and foodservice, those are the pillars for our strategy, and what they can enable us in the future. I mean, each of those two businesses, I mentioned Assan and Hemmer, they are just short of $100 million each. But with Assan, I mean, we will not only be able build Heinz as a bigger brand in Turkey, but we'll have capacity to grow much faster across the Middle East. And with Hemmer, I mean, Hemmer, we have announced, but we are now waiting for regulatory approval, we will not only strengthen our distribution, especially in the south of Brazil, we'll be able to participate in much more the value ladders of the chain within Taste Elevation. And we can really leverage their portfolio to build our scale faster, I mean, in retail and the foodservice channel. So they are definitely like, again, as I said, on strategy, and that's what makes us the most exciting is Taste Elevation and within the core emerging markets that we want to grow at and we see a lot of opportunities.

Alexia Jane Burland Howard -- Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC -- Analyst

Great, thank you very much. [Indecipherable]

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Ken Goldman with JPMorgan. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

Kenneth B. Goldman -- JPMorgan Chase & Co -- Analyst

Hi good morning. A couple of U.S.-based food producers have suffered through some worker strikes recently. I'm just curious how you're feeling about your labor relations in general at the moment? And I guess how investors should think about the risk, if there is any, of Kraft Heinz, perhaps facing some incremental challenges on this front?

Carlos A. Abrams-Rivera -- U.S. Zone President

Ken, thanks for your question. I'm obviously not going to speak to anybody else's business. What I'll tell you is that our teams, as I mentioned earlier, have shown tremendous agility of making sure that we are, in fact, continue to have a focus on engagement of our workforce. As we sit here today, what I'll tell you is that we have seen pockets of some places where we've had some labor challenges in terms of shortages, but also they have been very much focused on a few in isolated occasions. As we move forward, I am actually confident that we have been able to actually and will continue to manage through specific areas where there have been some isolated situations in which we have had some labor shortages, but in a way that is actually not a concern for us on a regular basis or on an ongoing basis as we move forward. So actually, I feel very good about where we are and how we continue to monitor this in an agile way. I don't know, anything else you wanted to build on, Miguel?

Miguel Patricio -- Chief Executive Officer & Director

No. I think that the only thing I would add is that we've been working hard to improve the engagement of the company overall. And that brings us more confidence about the possible labor issues for the future. And at this moment, we don't see any risk of a strike, but that doesn't mean that that's not possible. But -- so we are confident about that.

Carlos A. Abrams-Rivera -- U.S. Zone President

Yes. No, I think -- as Miguel said, I think -- yes. No, I think we're in a good position and really feel good about our -- the way, kind of, our teams have handled it. And with agility, they have shown during this really difficult time. So thank you.

Christopher M. Jakubik -- Head of Global Investor Relations

So I think we're about out of time there. So we'll end it there. Thanks, everyone, for joining us today. And for anybody who has follow-up questions, IR will be available to take your questions. And for anybody in the media, Kathy Granger and her team will be available for your follow-ups. So thanks, everyone, and have a great day.

Miguel Patricio -- Chief Executive Officer & Director

Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 30 minutes

Call participants:

Christopher M. Jakubik -- Head of Global Investor Relations

Miguel Patricio -- Chief Executive Officer & Director

Rafael de Oliveira -- Zone President of International

Paulo Luiz Araujo Basilio -- Global Chief Financial Officer

Carlos A. Abrams-Rivera -- U.S. Zone President

Andrew Lazar -- Barclays Bank PLC -- Analyst

Jason M. English -- Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. -- Analyst

Pamela Kaufman -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Bryan Douglass Spillane -- BofA Securities -- Analyst

Robert Bain Moskow -- Credit Suisse AG -- Analyst

Christopher Robert Growe -- Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated -- Analyst

Alexia Jane Burland Howard -- Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC -- Analyst

Kenneth B. Goldman -- JPMorgan Chase & Co -- Analyst

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