I was lucky enough to work with one of the great innovators of the 20th century food industry – Jeno Paulucci, who brought Chinese food to the US masses in the late 50s with a brand called Chun King and then made another fortune off the first frozen pizzas.
A couple of brief stories about him. His management wanted to buy another company for a million dollars. He wasn’t so sure, but he believed in his management. To make sure they knew the significance of what they were suggesting, he called a meeting and had a Brinks truck bring a million dollars into the boardroom in cash and said – ‘This is what we’re talking about. If you still want to proceed with it, let’s do it. But I want you to understand what you’re investing.’
In his early days, he challenged a potential client who was selling a competitor’s product to a taste test. They would open two cans of food and if Jeno’s was better the client would switch to his brand. On opening the can of his product, Jeno was aghast to find a dead cockroach on top. Thinking on his feet, he quickly grabbed a spoon, took the first spoonful, swallowed it down, pronounced it delicious, and offered it to the client. He got the contract.