It was the specific combination of an agile, family-owned business and ambitious international growth plans that made joining Paulig very attractive to the company’s new Chief Marketing Officer, Paula Backman. Five months into her new job, she reflects on her initial impressions and the journey she and her team have in front of them.
When Paulig’s CMO Paula Backman started on her new job in June 2020, she was above all impressed to learn how deeply rooted love for food and drink was in the company culture – and how strong and successful the brands have been and still are today.
“For this reason, we really should look back on our past with pride: we have succeeded in creating something unique, a moment of togetherness for the consumers,” she describes.
In Finland and Sweden particularly, she says, the brands have become part of the very culture:
“Paulig played an important part in introducing coffee to Finland and the culture along with it, the entire idea of a relaxing coffee break. Similarly, in Sweden we have fredagsmys, the Friday-night Tex Mex dinner the entire family makes and enjoys together. It was largely thanks to Santa Maria’s brand that fredagsmys became such an integral part of the typical Swedish weekend.”
Now, Backman wants to see Paulig reach a similar achievement in the present day – even though it is a lot harder in today’s environment.
“Competition is getting so much more intense, both when it comes to consumers standing in front of the shelves and choosing which product to pick, as well as between different brands. It’s getting increasingly difficult to stay among those that are truly loved.”
Creating a concrete roadmap on how to achieve truly loved and relevant brands also in the future is going to be her first big objective.
“We need to secure a path for our loved brands to stay as relevant for the next 145 years as they have been for the past 145 years. We need to create something that says we are original, unique and different – something that makes the consumer make sense of where we are going and helps distinguish us from others. And we need to have the courage to have creative edge”
Innovation beyond just the product itself
As Paulig’s CMO, Backman manages a team of 80 people consisting of marketing and product development. Her and her team’s roles are to strengthen group-level marketing and innovation leadership.
Besides marketing, Backman’s team leads the development of innovation within each category. Much like with branding, she says, the competition regarding innovation is also increasing. An important aspect of this defining innovation strategy based on four product categories; drinks, world food, spices & flavouring and plant-based food is to base the ideas on true consumer insights & trends. We need to have clear product vision for all our categories.
“In the future, discovering new recipes or flavours is not quite enough any longer. We need to take an even stronger leadership position and think about innovation also outside and beyond the product itself – for example, in convenience, technical solutions or distribution channels such as e-com.”
All in all, Backman says she is excited to have joined Paulig just now when the company is upping its ambition on this front.
“Paulig is currently at a very interesting stage where we have the opportunity to be a small family-owned business that can be agile and flexible, but at the same time have an international and global approach. This combination was very attractive to me, along with the clear ambition of becoming Europe’s fastest-growing food and beverage company,” she says.
Backman also speaks highly of Paulig’s sustainability ambitions.
“Targets have been set very high. Sustainability is complex: what consumers are asking for today is not always the same as what is good for health or the environment. So it’s going to be an interesting journey of looking for the optimal balance,” she says, adding that tackling food waste is going to be one major area of focus for Paulig as its environmental impact is very high and consumers uniformly view it as positive.
Paula Backman joined Paulig as the new Chief Marketing Officer and member of the Paulig Leadership Team in June 2020. She is based in Mölndal, Sweden.
Career: Backman has held several sales or marketing-related positions in the fast-moving consumer goods market for Johnson & Johnson and then, for the past fifteen years, for Essity. Throughout her career, she has worked on local, regional, national and global level. Her last position prior to Paulig was as Global Brand Director at Essity where she was overseeing TENA’s global strategies and innovations. She holds a Master’s degree in Marketing and Economy from University of Borås, Sweden.
Family: Married to Johan with twin boys Alex and Melvin who are turning 12 this year.
Hobbies: Backman loves to spend time with her family and friends, organising nice dinners or going out to eat. She jokingly says that instead of a hobby, she has a second job as a taxi driver taking her kids to their various practices. But in reality, she also plays tennis and does downhill skiing during wintertime.
Last book you read: In general, Backman loves crime novels but her latest book was nonfiction: Humble Leadership by Edgar and Peter Schein. Backman is interested in psychology and the impact people have on others – which is arguably one reason why she became a marketing professional.