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CEO Gustavo Valle Talks to Students about Dannon's Renewed Focus on the US Market

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As part of NYU Stern’s Graduate Marketing Association (GMA) Fireside Chat series, Dannon Company’s CEO Gustavo Valle spoke to a select group of 30 MBA students at NYU’s Torch Club on December 7. “This event series provides MBA students with an opportunity to interact with high-level executives in an intimate setting,” said GMA Vice President of Corporate Relations Rachel Lukas. Several members of the Dannon Marketing and Human Resources teams also attended, including Stern alumnus Peter Nevenglosky (MBA, ’09).


Valle’s talk centered on Dannon’s surging efforts to develop the yogurt market in the US by mimicking its success in other countries. The growth of Activia into a $400M brand in four years is just the beginning of the company’s rededication to the American market, said Valle. Looking to Dannon’s future, he described the unique challenges facing the company, most notably the need to change the perception of yogurt from a type of snack to part of an everyday, healthy lifestyle. He also walked through his personal career path, starting as an accountant in Argentina and working his way up to CEO of a worldwide brand.


When asked about his leadership style, Valle noted that a large portion of his job was pushing employees out of their comfort zone and empowering them to make decisions. “For me, the biggest takeaway from Valle’s message was about ambition. Simply stated, the bigger you think, the farther you can go,” said GMA member Judd Pratt-Heaney. Valle urged students to set high goals: “If you currently make 50 products and want to make 100, aim for 200, because even if you don’t reach 200, you are guaranteed to surpass 100.”