Dino Bianco’s tenure as CEO of Kruger has seen the company continue its tradition for innovation and customer service.
Located in Mississauga, Canada, Kruger Products is the largest tissue supplier for the Canadian market and a significant player in the US but according to CEO Dino Bianco, the opening of a new $575 million manufacturing facility in Sherbrooke, Québec, scheduled for 2021, looks set to enable the company to reach new heights across North America.
“The addition of that new facility gives us 70,000 metric tons of capacity, so it will add almost 20% more capacity to our business,” Bianco, who left Kraft to join Kruger in 2018, told CEO Magazine in an exclusive interview. “When it comes on board, it will allow us to do quality improvement on our products, make some unique innovations, and enable us to expand our customer base both in Canada and the US.”
Kruger Products is a public company, controlled by the Kruger family, which has built a solid reputation in traditional industry sectors like pulp and paper, container-board, and packaging. In addition to its production facilities across North America, Kruger owns and operates 38 green energy power plants and is a regional leader in paper and paperboard recycling. Kruger Products boasts leading brands such as Cashmere®, Scotties®’, SpongeTowels®, White Swan®and White Cloud®, and also has a strong heritage of supporting breast cancer research through its unique Cashmere Collection fashion show and special packs.
Upon taking on the CEO role for Kruger Products in 2018, Dino Bianco had more than 25 years of financial, sales/marketing and senior management experience with Kraft, including nearly seven years as president of Kraft Canada. He was the recipient of the Food Industry Association of Canada’s Golden Pencil Award in 2013, which recognized his lifetime contribution to the grocery sector. He also had extensive US experience, having served as president of Kraft’s US Beverage division based in Chicago.
“Kruger Products was a company that was very much represented in homes and the workplace, and it was one that was really willing to invest in the future and had really strong consumer brands, particularly in Canada,” Bianco said on his reasons for accepting the CEO role. “The Kruger Products CEO role was appealing to me because of the combination of the company’s growth orientation, a strong North American footprint, great brands, and a great team”.
A long-term vision
Kruger Products plays in a number of segments in the tissue industry—bathroom tissue, facial tissue, paper towels, and napkins—and produces across quality tiers from value to super premium as well as manufacturing products for both the branded and private label markets in North America at its facilities in Québec, Ontario, British Columbia, and Tennessee.
“Our parent company has been around for over 100 years and really takes a long term view of the business,” Bianco stated. “The fact that we are a family controlled, public company gives us the flexibility and willingness to think longer term than maybe some other companies do. We continue to upgrade our legacy facilities to make sure that we’re delivering different tiers of quality. Getting more efficiency, more capacity, through existing assets is a critical part of our success story.”
To this end, since becoming CEO in 2018, Dino Bianco has been heavily focused on implementing an operational excellence program—known as OpEx—through which Kruger has worked to upgrade its production capability and capacity and improve operational efficiencies.
“The program is focused on waste reduction, capacity and just getting a better cost structure per unit produced,” Bianco said. “The roots of the program are all based on lean principles. We announced the initiative publicly a couple of months ago and it’s happening as we speak. We have eight facilities across North America, but there are pockets of best practices across all of them, and what we want to do is standardize our approach on how we produce so we can leverage those practices and lower our overall cost base.”
An eye on sustainability
Under Bianco’s leadership, Kruger Products has also overseen the implementation of comprehensive sustainability targets across the use of fiber and water, energy, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and in packaging reduction through its Sustainability 2020 program, founded on the principles of vision, commitment, and action. In 2011, Kruger Products became the first Canadian tissue manufacturer to receive FSC® Chain of Custody certification from the Rainforest Alliance.
“We take from the earth and we give back in a very responsible way (…) Around 25% of our fiber is recycled, which helps us save trees. Sustainability is at the core of our company, and we have made significant progress over the past decade.”
As a tissue manufacturer, the key raw material Kruger Products purchases is virgin pulp. Pulp is the genesis of what creates tissue, and there are two main types: hardwood, which comes primarily from South America, and softwood, which mostly comes from North America. Packaging and chemicals are also among the principal products the company acquires through suppliers, including around ten strategic partners.
“We’re not only flexible on how we supply, but also how we design and create a product in order to meet the customer’s needs,” Bianco elaborated. “Product development is a key differentiator, whether it’s a size differentiation, a quality differentiation, or a format change. We work hand-in-hand with our customer partners to develop those, and we’ve got a very reactive supply chain whether it be in the retail space or away from home, which is a big market for us both in Canada and the US.”
“We’re probably the only player in North America that plays in bathroom tissue, facial tissue, napkins, and paper towels in Canada and the US, in branded and in private label, across essentially all tiers from value to mainstream to premium to super premium,” he concluded. “That’s what really differentiates us. We’re growth oriented, we’re customer service passionate. They’re the things that make us an attractive supplier. Those are the things that customers are looking for.”