Whether it is in the widget business or in toilet paper, if a company is going to not only stick around but also be competitive for more than a century, it needs to master innovation and figure out how to keep growing.
Heading into its 115th year, Kruger Products fits the bill. It does toilet paper, as well as paper towels and facial tissues. And it does them well.
The company has introduced the EnviroCare line, premium products made from 100% recycled paper; the SpongeTowels Ultra Strong won two Grand Prix Awards from the Retail Council of Canada; and in the U.S., White Cloud Ultra three-ply toilet paper was named best all-around bathroom tissue.
The past five years under CEO Mario Gosselin have been good ones, and the executive reins will be handed to Dino Bianco in March with the company in good shape.
Even if Canadians aren’t familiar with the Kruger name, almost all will recognize the Kruger brands: Cashmere, SpongeTowels, Scotties, Purex and White Swan. Many more use its white-label products every day in restaurants, hotels, schools and office buildings.
According to 2016 Nielsen data, Kruger leads both the Canadian bathroom and facial tissue categories (with market share of 36.8% and 31.5%, respectively) and is second in paper towel with 23.8% behind Procter & Gamble’s 32.2% share.
With Gosselin at the helm, Kruger Tissue went public in 2012 (it has 16.5% of Kruger Products, with the rest still controlled by the Kruger family’s Kruger Inc.), introduced new manufacturing technology at its facilities in Memphis, Tenn., and Crabtree, Que., to improve output of premium product, and drove revenue upward: from $923 million in 2012 to $1.2 billion in 2016.
“Maintaining our market leadership position in Canada remains our priority, but our expansion into the United States and Mexico has been a key to our success,” says Gosselin. Today the U.S. and Mexico represent 35% of the company’s overall revenue, up significantly from 10 years ago.
“Understanding the evolving consumer is more important than ever,” says Gosselin. “Today, more men are shopping, for example. Canada’s ethnic diversity continues to explode. Social media makes us all more accountable. And increasingly we understand how sustainability issues affect the supply chain,” he says. “Our uniquely entrepreneurial culture encourages our colleagues to identify these trends and respond with actions that embrace them to continue to grow our business.”
Bianco will be charged with leading that growth. He brings 25 years of experience from another consumer goods giant, Kraft, where he was most recently president of Kraft Canada and the company’s U.S. beverage division.
“The board is excited to have found someone of Dino’s calibre to succeed Mr. Gosselin,” said Joseph Kruger II, chair of Kruger Products, when the appointment was announced in December. “Mr. Bianco has extensive CPG experience and the strategic mindset to lead Kruger Products through its next phase of growth.”