North American Tissue News

“At the end of the day, we want to do the right thing for our customers”, says Kruger Products CMO

In a recent interview, Susan Irving spoke about how the company weathered the first few days of the pandemic, its sustainability as a consumer paper goods company, and the risky ad campaign “Unapologetically Human”

Kruger Products manufacture some of North America’s most popular tissue brands, such as Cashmere®, Purex®, Scotties®’, SpongeTowels®, White Cloud®, as well as products for use away from home.

In a recent interview with the Toronto Star magazine, Kruger’s chief marketing officer Susan Irving spoke about how the company weathered the first few days of the pandemic, its sustainability as a consumer paper goods company, and the risky ad campaign “Unapologetically Human”.

Kruger’s chief marketing officer Susan Irving

Within months of Irving’s arrival at the company, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, consumers were scouring supermarket shelves, North America had to deal with pandemic-related supply chain disruptions – which included toilet paper – and Kruger found itself in the spotlight of the Canadian market.

“It was quite crazy. I was making my first presentation at a national sales team meeting in Florida. That’s when everything started. We were out of stock at Costco. We were like ‘what are you talking about? No one runs out of toilet paper’,” said the CMO. “At the end of the day, there was no shortage. We just needed to catch up with demand. We had to deal with the shift from away-from-home to at-home purchases. We were able to calm down our retailers and consumers by saying: ‘Listen, there isn’t a shortage. We just have to catch up with demand giving that consumers were pantry-loading like crazy’.”

The paper industry uses a lot of energy and can cause a lot of pollution, but sustainability is a big deal for Kruger, whose mission prioritizes the environment and social impact to make everyday life more comfortable.

“In our industry, given that we use trees, we’ve got to make sure that we keep the environment as sustainable as possible”, Irving commented. “Sustainability has officially been part of our corporate strategy since 2010. Unofficially, we’ve always managed our use of natural resources responsibly. If we didn’t, we’d put ourselves out of business. We fully believe that corporate growth and sustainability can work together.”

She also mentioned that during the pandemic, Kruger finished its 2020 sustainability report and surpassed three of four targets, and only narrowly missed the fourth.

“We reduced energy consumption intensity by 15 per cent. We reduced our scope one greenhouse gas emissions (emissions from Kruger Products facilities) by 26 per cent, reduced our water usage by 37 per cent, and improved our employee health and safety by 58 per cent. Some phenomenal results. Even though there was a pandemic, we continued our commitment to deliver on our environmental goals.”

Consumer paper goods companies are not generally known for risky ads, but when Susan Irving joined Kruger, she ran an ad campaign called Unapologetically Human that focuses on the fact that humans are messy.

“It was probably the most nerve-wracking campaign I’ve ever been involved in because I knew it was either going to be a massive success, or it could have been disastrous because it was taking a huge risk,” she said. “The whole idea behind ‘Unapologetically Human’ was that we all cry. We all make messes. We’re all feeling the same way. It was an opportunity for us to put the consumer first and show that humanity is what unites us all.”

Irving also talked about how Kruger is dealing with the global uncertainties that the world is going through, in addition to supply shortages, just-in-time delivery, geopolitical uncertainty. She said they’ve never worked more as a team and “At the end of the day, we want to do the right thing for our customers”

“We just built a new plant in Sherbrooke and we’re doing everything that we can to produce locally. We’re investing in our facilities here in Canada and in the U.S. We actually just relaunched our brand, White Cloud, in the U.S. as well,” the CMO commented. “But at the end of the day, when you go through trauma, that’s when you notice where there are opportunities and where there are issues within your organization. Now, obviously, with all the uncertainty in the world — be it inflation, or the strikes with our trucking organizations, with shortages — we’re really homing in on opportunities within our organization so we can continue to supply our customers in the right way.”

To read the complete interview, visit the Toronto Star magazine website.

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