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Charisse Ford Hughes: Pioneering Growth and Cultural Value at Kellogg Company

Charisse Ford Hughes Alumni Relations + Kellogg Company

In the world of breakfast choices, Charisse Ford Hughes (’93, HUSB), stands out for making decisions that affect millions of people worldwide.  

Hughes currently serves as the senior vice president and chief growth officer at Kellogg Company. The multinational operation headquartered in Battle Creek, Michigan is renowned for its diverse range of products, including Kellogg’s cereals, Cheez-It crackers, Pringles potato crisps, MorningStar Farms veggie meats and Eggo waffles. 

Hughes joined Kellogg in 2020 as its senior vice president and chief marketing officer. She became senior vice president and chief brand and analytics officer before taking on her current role in May 2023. She has had leadership roles in her career, including chief marketing officer Americas for global jewelry manufacturer Pandora and other brand leadership roles with The Estee Lauder Cos., Avon Products Inc., and Sara Lee Corp. 

As Kellogg’s chief growth officer, Hughes leads marketing, advanced analytics, research and development, and innovation for a company that markets its products in 180 countries. “What that includes is really understanding the trends, the behaviors and the preferences of our consumer in a way that allows us to creatively and uniquely bring foods, packaging, messaging, creative storytelling to the brands that are relevant for the occasion, and doing all of that in a way that delights the consumer. And so that’s kind of the big broad challenge or remit, if you will, which is an exciting one,” she said. 

I have some very dear friends and relationships that have endured since becoming a part of the alumni community at Howard University.

Her academic career was inspired by her family. “I chose to go to an HBCU because my mother was the first in her family to go to college. And she went to an HBCU; she went to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. She set a very clear example and made a very clear statement that there were many options for me. There were several historically Black colleges and universities, and I just needed to choose from one of them. And so of course I chose The Mecca, which is the best university: Howard University,” Hughes said. 

Business was not her original goal. “I went to Howard thinking that I was going to be an engineering major. I was strong in science and in math. And so, I thought, ‘This is perfect, I’ll go and be an engineer.’ I arrived at Howard and quickly figured out that engineering was not for me because I did not understand calculus for engineers, and it was essentially Greek to me,” Hughes said. 

She pivoted to the School of Business which gave her career guidance and exposure to internships and professional networks. “But on the personal side, it provided me with the confidence,” Hughes said. “The nurturing environment of being at an HBCU is – you know, you can’t even put a price tag on it. I have some very dear friends and relationships that have endured since becoming a part of the alumni community at Howard University. I can’t even bring into words how important and meaningful this has been.” 

She isn’t Kellogg’s first chief growth officer, but she is determined not to be the last. “That’s my goal – to make this role one that creates value for the organization,” she said. “So those who are shaping the organization in the future will see and feel the impact – not say, ‘Okay, we’re going to do away with that role’ because it wasn’t effective, or this person didn't drive what the corporation needed.” 

“And the value is not just financial, frankly. Because my goal is also to bring cultural value; I live by the mantra ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ And so, what that means to me is that I’ve got to create a pipeline of talent, as well as making sure that there are others who look like me that are in the succession, either for me or in other roles within the company.” 

Hughes has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She is married to Gene Hughes Jr. and has twin children. Her son Gene III will enter Morehouse College in the Fall and daughter Jadyn will enter at the Howard School of Business.