Susan Irving, chief marketing officer at Kruger Products, says her brand strategy for the tissue company is to keep connecting with consumers
By Kristina Urquhart
Last month, Kruger Products announced Susan Irving as its new chief marketing officer, effective March 1 upon the retirement of current CMO Nancy Marcus.
Irving, who has held numerous senior positions in the consumer packaged goods space, was most recently senior marketing director for the Quaker Nutrition portfolio at PepsiCo Foods Canada.
In her new role, Irving will lead the Kruger Products marketing team, developing and executing the vision and performance of all the company’s brands in Canada and the U.S.
She recently chatted to Pulp & Paper Canada about the hire and the opportunities she sees for Kruger’s tissue portfolio.
Pulp & Paper Canada: You’ve spent your career doing marketing for big brands – what drew you to Kruger Products?
Susan Irving: Honestly, the people at the brand, and a leadership position at a Canadian company.
I’ve been very lucky over my 20-year career to be working for big, global companies on amazing brands, but having the ability to be on a Canadian leadership team, and working for a Canadian company here in Toronto where you can [access] Canada and the U.S. – those opportunities don’t come up very often.
Kruger is a company that’s very well known in the industry, and it has really great brands and really great people.
P&PC: As a consumer of tissue, what do you think is the biggest challenge the industry is facing right now that you are going to have to overcome from a marketing perspective?
SI: Nancy Marcus [Kruger Products’ outgoing chief marketing officer] has done a fabulous job setting these brands up for success.
If you look at what she’s done with the Cashmere Collection, and keeping those brands top of mind, she’s really done a phenomenal job, especially since we’re share leaders in most of the categories.
I think the biggest challenge that I see after working on big, global brands is what’s different with tissue versus other categories. If you have Captain Crunch on your table, if you have Pepsi brought into the house – when you take the packaging off, you still see the brand.
With tissue, it’s one of those categories that when you bring the brand into the house and you take that packaging off, there’s no more branding to remind you what that brand is.
So, for me, there’s a big opportunity to push why we need to continue driving our tissue brands and why we need to be more visible on the consumer side.
P&PC: What approaches of Nancy’s do you want to incorporate into your own marketing plan going forward?
SI: Right now, I’m really taking more of a listening and learning approach. Given that the industry is new to me, I really need to understand this business, the categories and the business challenges before I start changing things.
If you look at the Cashmere Collection and the link to breast cancer awareness, Nancy has done a great job with the brand to show the point of difference.
There’s the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the NHL – there’s a lot of great partnerships that we have and a lot of activations that we can leverage to continue to drive the business forward.
P&PC: Where do you see the marketing portfolio growing over the long-term?
SI: If you look at Canada and the U.S., there are a lot of opportunities for us to continue to grow our brands. There are opportunities for us to connect with consumers, especially with Gen Z, just given the changing dynamics in the marketplace and what matters to them.
P&PC: Does Kruger Products have a plan to jump in on the single-use plastics conversation, in terms of choosing paper over plastic?
SI: There’s a lot of things that Kruger has done that [we] should be proud about in terms our manufacturing.
Kruger was the first Canadian tissue manufacturer to earn an FSC chain of custody certification from Rainforest Alliance.
We’ve already reduced our packing material by 13 per cent. And we’ve added more than 60 third-party certified products including FSC-certified offerings into the business.
Obviously, single-use plastics is a huge issue – it’s a burning platform globally. And it’s something I think the tissue industry does need to look at. At the end of the day, sustainability is extremely important for the company.
PPC: Kruger Products’ Mississauga, Ontario headquarters is moving to a new facility this spring. What can you tell us about that?
SI: In April, we’re moving into a brand-new LEED-certified building. So it’ll be a very fresh face for the tissue world. We’re really excited about that and what that means for Kruger in terms of moving the company forward.
Working in an open, collaborative office space will really help our team as we build our plans to move into the new century. We are quite proud of the design. The team has really done a great job.
P&PC: Anything else we should know about your new role?
SI: The only other thing that I’d like to add is that throughout my career I’ve benefited from a ton of mentors.
I’m thrilled to be working under Dino Bianco’s leadership. He’s very well known in the industry and he’s done a lot of great things to move the company forward.
At Pepsi, I was very lucky to mentor and lead lots of people on my team and then also the outside of the industry. So I continue to plan on playing that role within the industry in the CPG space in Canada.
This interview has been condensed and edited.