The Peerless Potato Chip Company (Peerless) is a private-label, family-owned-and-operated, national potato chip manufacturer specializing in organic chips. The CEO, Kate Kelly, had been with the company from the beginning—since her uncle had first started making chips more than 25 years earlier on his farm in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia. In fact, she’d been the primary architect of its growth and expansion.
For the first time since its founding, the company’s profit margin had been declining steadily—to almost one-third of what it had been just seven years earlier. Kelly admitted that much of the downturn stemmed from her lax, even absentee management. As she came to grips with the situation, Kelly identified an array of missing or incomplete metrics, unquantified performance indicators, and uncontrolled variable costs that were severely impacting the company’s bottom line.
The case, designed for an MBA or non-MBA audience, is about management, especially of performance-indicating metrics and operating data. Students are asked to consider a number of options Kelly is looking at: determining key manufacturing data, making cuts to the product line, "going green," and other potential cost-cutting and profit-generating possibilities to reverse the downtrend in profits and regain control of the company’s finances.