At a time when many FMCG brands are increasingly competing on price and when consumers are trained to buy on discount, she says Frucor has been able to command a price premium because its brands are so strong. “It’s easy for us to get topline sales growth, but to do it while not giving it away on price has been our biggest challenge. In the first year when we set out on this journey that’s how we had to get customers on board, but over the last two years we’ve moved it away from price and it’s been about added value and consumer engagement … That’s part of the beauty of what we’ve done. We’ve set ourselves up with a five year plan to get the best long term outcome. And we’re not taking the easy win.”
She says Frucor embraces risk-taking and that has led to a host of award-winning work with its primary agency Colenso BBDO, much of it done for what she says is around a tenth of the marketing budget of its main competitor. And she believes New Zealand marketers need to follow suit. “Somewhere along the line we’ve started to become a little bit more conservative. So that’s a challenge for marketers to get back our bravery. And to be more purposeful. We’re seeing some great work out of what were pretty traditional organisations like P&G and Unilever, and they’re starting to have conversations that are bigger than their brands.”
Speaking of purpose, Frucor’s head office is located in Manukau, an area often singled out in discussions of obesity. So how is it dealing with that? “It’s one of my personal passions and part of why I’m doing what I’m doing right now. We’re very committed to ensuring consumers have choice and at no compromise, and that’s the challenge. How do you make great tasting products with reduced sugar? We’ve taken the lead on a number of fronts in all our categories. We have 43 products in our ‘better for you’ portfolio, which is the largest in the country; we work with the Ministry of Health; we’re the only one in a schools programme; H2go is Stevia-based; we offer juices with 50 percent less sugar; and we have PepsiMax.”
She says this trend towards better products and more choice will accelerate over time, both because there’s pressure on companies like Frucor to help solve the problem and because it’s what people want. “We want to be at the forefront of it because we believe we have a part to play, like many others do, in teaching kids to make the right choices.”
And that attitude is evidenced in her close connection with the Life Education Trust. Frucor has been a long-time sponsor, but with the help of some others from the company, she helped raise $200,000 to set up a Manukau branch where its services were badly needed, as well as $150,000 every year to keep it running. That’s been open for about three years and it’s just merged three different trusts together.
She is also helping young marketers through her involvement with the MA’s Brand Challenge and she also mentors future business leaders, both from inside and outside Frucor. Her commercial nous, leadership skills, customer focus and strategic eye have certainly put her on a path to bigger and better roles. And while she does see herself in a more senior position at some stage, she says what’s most important “is having the right family life and balance” for her and her two young boys. We’ll drink to that.