Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale is focused on growing in Arkansas, president and CEO Tom Hayes said Tuesday during the Arkansas Economic Development Foundation Luncheon at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.
Hayes was the keynote speaker of the event, hosted by the AEDF and the Arkansas Industrial and Economic Development Foundation. Gov. Asa Hutchinson also spoke briefly, and John Tyson, chairman of the Tyson Foods board of directors, introduced Hayes.
Hayes was appointed to CEO in December. The former company president joined Tyson Foods in 2014, when the publicly traded firm acquired Hillshire Brands of Chicago in an $8.5 billion deal.
The acquisition was a deal that John Tyson said allowed Tyson Foods to take the next step toward becoming an "integrated consumer products company," one that aims to go far beyond commodity proteins into value-added packaged products.
Hayes announced elements of the new strategy in February, shortly after the company revamped its leadership team. In addition to placing great emphasis on valued-added branded products, Tyson Foods is emphasizing sustainability and new food technology to lead growth.
On Tuesday, Hayes said the company will aim to create a sustainable food system because it's what consumers demand and will ultimately drive profits.
"We're dead set on having no trade-offs, on making sure we have healthier animals, a healthier environment, healthy workplace, healthy people, healthy food," he said. "But it's important to do all of those together. We're not about changing one out for the other."
Hayes also dispelled a misconception that the company is moving toward focusing exclusively on plant-based protein. While projects like Beyond Meat are a recent addition to Tyson Foods' portfolio, Hayes said the company wants to grow in every area, and that animal proteins remain a driving force for the company.
Hayes also spoke generally about how Tyson Foods, as a so-called "Big Food" company, would raise expectations by working toward solutions for feeding the world.
The New Hampshire native called Arkansans talented, hard working, warm and generous. He said the beginnings of Tyson Foods were impressive too, but humble.
Hayes also said he would soon be a full-time resident rather than a commuter; he has purchased a home near the Springdale-Fayetteville line.