Having history on your side is never really a bad thing, but too much reliance on past marketplace glories and triumphs can be tantamount to courting disaster in today’s fast-paced, high-stakes global food business.
Fortunately for Kraft Canada Inc., a 100-year-plus Canadian corporate institution and a key strategic asset of the vast Kraft Foods Inc. global empire, slipping into complacency is simply not in the cards under the watchful eye of its current president Dino Bianco—an energetic, articulate, hockey-loving 20-year Kraft veteran whose steady climb up the company’s career ladder was aptly rewarded in 2005 with being appointed to steer Kraft’s Canadian operations through formidable challenges and pressures unleashed by the hypercompetitive new realities of 21st century food manufacturing.
Marking the first time that a Canadian was put in charge of Kraft Canada since the early 1980s, Bianco’s move to the top job today seems as fulfilling for the Toronto-born, 47-year-old father of three teenagers as it does for the Chicago-headquartered parent company—ranking as the world’s second-largest food-and-beverage producer with annual sales of over US$42 billion—that employs over 5,000 people at multiple facilities across Canada.
It is also a striking symbolic reassurance of firm, long-term commitment to the Canadian marketplace by a towering multinational heavyweight that was itself founded in the Windy City way back in 1903 by a traveling cheese salesman from Canada named J.L. Kraft, whose patented pasteurized cheese with exceptionally long shelf-life virtually revolutionized the cheese business at a time well before refrigeration became commonplace.
“In a sense, one might say Canada is an ‘overdeveloped’ market for Kraft because we are the second-biggest market after the U.S.—despite Canada ranking as the eighth-biggest economy in the world,” Bianco points out.
“So yes, Canada is very important to Kraft,” Bianco told Canadian Packaging in an exclusive recent interview at the company’s stylish Canadian headquarter facility, tucked away along a quiet stretch of the Don Mills neighborhood in northern Toronto.
Citing a staggering product portfolio of some of the best-known Canadian food-and-beverage brands—covering a broadly diverse product range from cheese and dairy to baked goods, coffee, pastas and a multitude of condiments and sauces—and unrivaled ‘household penetration’ rate of 99 percent, Bianco is nevertheless quick to assert that the company’s current marketplace leadership across numerous product categories can never be taken for granted if it is serious about retaining its status as the country’s top food manufacturer and packager well into the future.