Then & Now: James David helps set strategy for Simmons Foods

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 2,326 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Aug. 3 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.


James David spent nearly nine years at meat giant Tyson Foods before leaving for ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi X in Springdale. In November, he joined Siloam Springs-based poultry producer Simmons Foods.

David was pricing manager for retail consumer projects for Tyson Foods when the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named him to the Forty Under 40 class in 2012.

He handled pricing in fresh and frozen poultry. The company promoted David to senior pricing manager and senior director of business operations. He went from managing the pricing for seven poultry plants to overseeing business operations for 11 facilities after he was selected for a two-year mentorship program. He learned from former CEO Donnie Smith, existing CEO Noel White and other executives such as Donnie King. Meanwhile, he earned a master’s degree in finance and an MBA from Indiana University.

In 2018, he left Tyson Foods to join Saatchi & Saatchi X as vice president of growth management.

“They were looking for a leader with financial acumen and some business acumen to pair into the shopper marketing, advertising space,” David said. “Jessica Hendrix, who is a phenomenal leader and CEO, gave me a shot there.”

Until then, David worked mostly in business management positions. The new job was a financial management role and a unique opportunity for him to expand beyond food and into consumer products, such as personal care and beverages. The position allowed him to work with multiple industries and experience e-commerce, shopper strategy and production. He started when the agency was opening a Cincinnati office near the Procter & Gamble headquarters.

In November, David, 39, left the agency to join Simmons Foods as vice president of strategy and margin management. He works with sales, marketing and operations to deliver net profit margins for the company. He also leads and carries out a long-term strategy for the prepared food segment of the business.

“Strategy is something I’m very passionate about,” he said. “I love doing it, and I relish the opportunity to think about not only where we are but where we should be and how we can better serve our customers and our community based off of what we do best and what capabilities we need to learn and continue to grow as a business to do that. The Simmons family has afforded me an incredible opportunity to do that in a great company with a great group of people.”

David and about 15 employees from various company departments work on strategy development.

David also is an adviser for AdvisoryCloud and looks to help small companies develop their brand.

Since November 2016, David has been a chief administrative officer for the Air National Guard. He has been a medical service corps officer since joining the Air National Guard and has helped to carry out the military medical mission for the U.S. Air Force. The 188th Wing of the Air National Guard in Fort Smith has a remotely piloted aircraft mission. It’s his job to ensure the military personnel are medically able and prepared to fly. He and his team must train and be ready to set up an emergency field hospital and be joined to a larger group if needed. Last summer, he led most of his 50-member medical unit in a training exercise with the U.S. Navy at a naval hospital in Portsmouth, Va.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Simmons Foods has focused on keeping employees safe and ensuring food is available in the supply chain and reaches its customers where needed. It is adapting quickly to meet the changing customer demands, he said.

David is a member of the Springdale Planning Commission and plans to expand his community service, starting at the city level and working to the state level.

Along with working with great people, he said a career highlight was going to the White House in 2012 as part of an Obama administration initiative to hire veterans. He returned to the White House to learn about its impact.

David has two sons and one daughter and enjoys working out, cycling, movies and fantasy baseball.