CHICAGO — Bright and open, Kraft Foods' new headquarters in Northfield, Ill., looks more like a high-tech startup than a company that makes Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.
Peter Borowski, head of design at Kraft Foods Group, took SPE Blow Molding Conference attendees on a virtual tour of the building, transformed from what was a 1980s-style suburban campus, full of dark brown paneled offices, desks and cubicles. Dull. Predictable.
Now the changes start when you walk into the building, past avante-garde sculptures of icons like Mr. Peanut, a giant yellow macaroni, Kool-Aid Man, the Weinermobile.
Sounding more like an architect than a designer, Borowski showed photos of a campus transformed by high ceilings, lots of common areas, big tables for people to meet, stations all over the place to get free coffee, peanuts and other snacks — all Kraft brands, ‘natch.
They replaced escalators with stairs. “We put that in there so people are walking around, and moving around,” Borowski said.
Of course, the Kraft headquarters has advanced test kitchens.
“The biggest change was the move from offices to an open environment,” he said. Nobody has an office now, not even CEO Tony Vernon. He often hangs out in the common areas.
At first, some Kraft veterans balked at the open office layout. Now they like it, Borowski said. “Most importantly, employees are looking forward and not back,” he said.
Northfield is 20 miles north of Chicago. This year, Kraft opened an office downtown, on Michigan Avenue, close to the ad agencies and hip city dwellers. That's important for an $18 billion grocery products maker, listed on Nasdaq.
Borowski, who sported a t-shirt with the well-known Kraft logo, showed a history of company logos through the years.
“Our logo is an equity—you show it to someone and they say, ‘Oh, that's Kraft,'” he said.