“Keep going! My grandfather instilled this in my mother, and my mother in me.” – CEO Q&A with Killian Barry, Danone Ireland

Killian Barry is Managing Director of Danone Ireland.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

My number one priority is to deliver on Danone’s long-standing mission – to bring health, through food, to as many people as possible. Our brands share a common goal: to offer tasty, innovative, top-quality products that meet the expectations and support the health of millions of consumers and patients at every stage of life.

What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

Balancing short-term needs with long-term ambition is a constant juggling act, especially in today’s unpredictable world. Almost every decision involves striking a balance between delivering for our people, our patients, and consumers in the short term, while ensuring the long-term success of our business as we work towards our mission. 

How do you keep your team/ staff motivated?

We have 740 Danoners working at our Dublin office and Irish manufacturing sites. In Dublin, my leadership team and I strive to create an inclusive and diverse environment where our people feel comfortable being themselves and achieving their highest potential. 

What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

Sustainability remains one of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry as a whole. We are committed to helping Ireland achieve key goals around plastic packaging waste reduction and are participating in the Deposit Return Scheme, which aims to increase recycling and reduce litter, to deliver a circular economy. We are also proud signatories of Repak’s Plastics Pledge. 

Moreover, as proud supporters of Ireland’s dairy industry, we recognise we have a responsibility to support the dairy sector to meet its climate targets by 2030 and beyond, as we strive to meet ours. We actively engage with our suppliers on the climate transition as we work towards our collective decarbonisation goals.

What new trends are emerging in your industry? 

With an increased focus on active lifestyles, consumers are becoming more informed when it comes to nutrition and are keen to embrace healthier and high-protein products. Following its launch last year, our GetPRO range 

has been very popular with consumers. 

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

Last year, Danone UK & Ireland made a series of health commitments across our dairy, plant-based, and beverages portfolios, committing that 90% of our products by sales volume will not be high in sugar, salt, or fat (HFSS). We are making significant progress on these commitments, but collectively as an industry, we need to do more in partnership with Government to educate and empower consumers to make healthier choices.

How has Brexit affected you?

With the rollout of new UK import measures, we are ensuring our factories are fully prepared and are monitoring operations carefully during the initial introductory period. The next change on the horizon is the introduction of the Windsor framework, and our teams are actively preparing for all of the requirements to ensure this goes as smoothly as possible.

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business/sector?

During the pandemic, many markets experienced supply challenges. In response to shortages of infant formula in the US, the FDA exercised enforcement discretion for the importation of Aptamil Infant Formula, which is produced by Danone in Ireland. I’m proud of our Wexford manufacturing plant for delivering on this and helping 

parents in the U.S. during this challenging situation.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

One major business highlight last year was the launch of GetPRO, Danone’s new range of yogurts, puddings, and functional drinks which are high in protein, contain no added sugar and are low or 0% fat. On a personal level, the timing couldn’t have been better as this innovation hit the shelves shortly before I ran the Dublin marathon!

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year? 

Danone’s key focus is to do good for our planet and consumers, as well as patient health. In 2024, we are aiming to improve our performance with this mission in mind.  

What advice would you give to others starting out in business?

My career path to date has not been linear. My advice to others starting out in business is to remain open to new challenges, never say no to new and interesting opportunities and to expand your skills and expertise as early in your career as possible.

What is the best book you’ve ever read (non-business) and why?

As a father of three children under the age of seven, I don’t get much time for reading these days! The Gruffalo is our family favourite at bedtime, and Julia Donaldson’s books are always a hit – even with Mum and Dad! 

What is your favourite hobby and why?

Running, I love the simplicity of it – all you need is a pair of runners. It’s where I decompress after busy days and weeks at work. I’ve ran the Dublin Marathon for the past two years, and my competitive streak is always trying to beat my personal best at all distances! 

What is your mantra for life?

“Keep going!” My grandfather instilled this in my mother, and my mother in me. From a young age, she always told me to keep going, no matter what life throws at you. I’m still going! 


Share this page Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Linkedin