Features

Kevin Goldberg – Nestle North America (Gerber)

A healthy company means healthy baby food

Eight years ago, Kevin Goldberg was at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis as the Giants defeated Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. Five years before that, he watched the Giants spoil the Pats’ bid for a perfect season by defeating New England in Super Bowl XLII.

In all, the Giants have won four Super Bowls in Goldberg’s lifetime, and this die-hard fan remembers them vividly—the feeling of euphoria, the jubilant moments shared with his family.

But he also remembers the down years: the devastating injuries; the underachievement of top draft picks, free agent signees, coaches and front office personnel.

Goldberg sometimes reflects on those moments and how the team scaled the hurdles, particularly when facing his own challenges at work.

“There’s been countless challenges in my career, I mean I’m currently working with my fifth CEO in the last 13 years,” says Goldberg, vice president and general counsel for the Gerber brand, which is owned by Nestle, the iconic Swiss food and beverage conglomerate.

The biggest challenge, for him and the company, has been the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has had to change the way it operates, and Goldberg has been right in the thick of it helping implement new policies and protocols—all in the name of ensuring the company remains healthy and viable.

More than just a lawyer

Lawyers, he says, have always been accustomed to sitting together in a conference room when a problem arose. So, when a global pandemic brings businesses to a standstill, it’s a challenge—technologically and otherwise.

“Without as many personal touchpoints, we’re becoming more digital and becoming digital lawyers,” Goldberg notes. “We’re doing things through Microsoft Teams and it’s an adjustment, but it’s been a way to bring new value to the business.”

In Gerber’s legal department he says there’s been an emphasis on delivering value, and people are organizing their time better while working from home, in part because there are so many more meetings—but it’s led to increased efficiency in many cases.

As a commercial business, the most important thing is continued production, Goldberg says. From a tech standpoint, the transition to remote work has been slow. Taking on responsibilities beyond the traditional general counsel role, Goldberg says he’s had to help ensure the company’s day-to-day operations run smoothly, while providing leadership to minimize disruptions.

“I wear many hats and would never describe myself as just a lawyer or general counsel sitting in a corner office with a closed door,” he adds. “I take on a lot of business responsibilities, and I always want to be available to our employees. I want to lead in a way that represents our mission as a business.”

Major projects galore

Goldberg’s had that mindset since he came to Gerber in 2007. Over the last 13 years, he’s says he has been involved in significant changes, improvements and transformations for Gerber, one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

In 2012, he helped establish a companywide Litigation Competency and Center of Excellence, which led to a double-digit reduction of outside legal expenditures. He’s managed several global and U.S. product recalls that resulted in satisfactory outcomes for the company. More broadly, Goldberg’s overseen FDA compliance, corporate governance, global and domestic legal affairs, and risk management—or risk optimization—as he calls it.

In 2019, he had a lead role as the Gerber brand relocated its headquarters from Florham Park, New Jersey, to Arlington, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C., that is also home to the headquarters of Nestle North America.

Gerber’s mission is “Anything for Baby” and to be a leader in childhood and infant nutrition. Goldberg says he takes great pride in being able to do whatever he can to help the company achieve its goals. While the company’s marketing, sales and branding teams are responsible for the image and communication of the Gerber brand, Goldberg often has the chance to be involved in the decision-making and logistics for the company’s most important priorities.

For example, earlier this year Gerber chose the first adopted baby, a California girl named Magnolia Earl, to be the face of its iconic product line.

“This experience was so important because it’s what we are as a company, and they all have such beautiful stories,” he says.

The career he wanted

Goldberg wanted to be a lawyer from an early age, but not because he has a bunch of lawyers in his family. An entrepreneur as a teenager, he sold stuff to friends and “really enjoyed” business—something that would manifest later while he worked in telecommunications for more than seven years.

At Rutgers University he studied psychology and political science and then enrolled at New York Law School in Lower Manhattan in 1997. There, he found an affinity for commercial law and litigation—Goldberg started his law career as a litigator, but learned quickly that it wasn’t what he imagined.

“Now, if I’m in a courtroom it’s usually because a judge has asked me to be there as a representative of the company, representing the brand,” he says, while noting that as a hands-on general counsel, he’s often in court for other reasons, too.

When he started in-house, there were a lot of traditional lawyers. He started at the staff attorney level and fell in love with being a part of a dynamic company and being involved in all levels of the business.

Goldberg was hired by Novartis in 2005 and was elevated to his current position in 2007 after the Gerber division of Novartis was acquired by Nestle in the same year. After so many years with one company, he says it wouldn’t be surprising if employees were bored or looking for other opportunities. He adds that he loves the company and loves being a part of the business and continues to instill that love and that mindset to lawyers on his legal team.

“Like the great Bill Parcells, I take pride in my coaching. Coaching other lawyers to be business lawyers is a particular thing I’m proud of,” Goldberg says.

Published on: December 21, 2020

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