Hubert M. Tibbetts (August 24, 1924 - June. 2, 2002) was the Chief Executive at Lipton Tea whose innovations transformed and enriched the company.
New York Times Obituary
Hubert M. Tibbetts, 77, Chief And Innovator at Lipton Tea
Hubert M. Tibbetts, who helped lead Thomas J. Lipton Inc. as it moved beyond the traditional cup of tea to iced tea in a can and other convenience foods, died on Sunday while bicycling in Armonk, N.Y. He was 77 and lived in Greenwich, Conn.
The cause was a heart attack, his wife, Gunhild, said.
Mr. Tibbetts, who was known as Hu, became president of Lipton, by then a Unilever company, in 1972 and was named chief executive in 1978; he retired in 1988.
During his tenure as chief executive, Lipton's net profit more than tripled, said Carolyn Zachary, a spokeswoman for Unilever Bestfoods North America.
The profit came partly from new Lipton products like instant soup, and convenience-format noodles, rice and pasta -- ranging well beyond the tea the company sold when it opened its first factory in Hoboken in 1919. These foods, and iced tea in a can, introduced in 1972, were created by teams led by Mr. Tibbetts for consumers who seemed to place increasing value on saving time.
Mr. Tibbetts summarized his philosophy in a passage of an annual report shortly after he became chief executive. ''Growth is nearly impossible to attain without a steady flow of new products,'' it said.
Hubert Merrill Tibbetts was born in Hallowell, Me., on Aug. 24, 1924, the son of a druggist and a schoolteacher. He attended Harvard for a year before joining the Army Air Forces, serving with the Flying Tigers in China during World War II.
Returning to Harvard, he graduated in 1947, traveled, and moved to St. Thomas, V.I. There, he became a schoolteacher and a promoter of boxing matches and started a peanut vending machine business.
After about six months, he returned to the United States and worked for companies including Borden, Lever Brothers, Salada Foods and an advertising agency, Lennen and Newell. Several of those helped make up the British-Dutch conglomerate Unilever.
In 1969, he joined Lipton as an executive vice president for marketing, and started a search for new products. In 1970, Mr. Tibbetts led a group that introduced a one-serving pouch with powdered flavoring called Cup-a-Soup. Besides ice tea in a can, teams he led introduced soup mixes in 1975 and 1976, flavored teas in 1977, noodle dishes in 1980, rice-and-sauce packets in 1984 and pasta-and-sauce packets in 1985. All are sold today.
Blaine Hess, the chief executive of Lipton after Mr. Tibbetts, said that in promoting low-calorie salad dressings, Mr. Tibbetts built Wish-Bone, acquired in 1958 with annual sales of less than $10 million, into a brand with sales exceeding $150 million.
In 1982, Mr. Tibbetts signed a deal to distribute Equal, the brand name of aspartame, a low-calorie sweetener, and began selling tea mix sweetened with aspartame.
Mr. Tibbetts championed a few flops along the way, including no-drip ice cream that was distributed through frozen-food channels. ''That's one of those that didn't work,'' Mr. Hess said. ''We didn't have the advertising to go behind it.''
After Mr. Tibbetts retired, he tried selling a soap bar that also worked as a shampoo, and owned taxi companies in Greenwich and Stamford, Conn.
Besides his wife, the former Gunhild Wetterhorn, Mr. Tibbetts is survived by a brother, Paul, of Naples, Fla.; two sisters, Barbara Treworgy, of Calais, Me., and Beverlee Kline of Delray Beach, Fla.; his son, Lance, of Stamford, Conn.; his daughter, Kirsten Kripalani, of Manhattan Beach, Calif.; and two granddaughters.
By AARON DONOVAN JUNE 7, 2002, New York Times
Hubert M. Tibbetts is interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.