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2012 Power 50: No. 30 Kees Kruythoff

If Unilever’s North American President Kees Kruythoff appears to be having a good hair day, it’s likely the result of Dove, Tresemmé, Suave or one of the other established brands contributing to the company’s status as the No. 1 hair care company in the U.S.

Having held senior roles with Unilever in Holland, South Africa, China and Brazil before arriving on his fifth continent to assume responsibility for North America last September, Kruythoff’s global view has brought to this market, products that have proven themselves elsewhere in the world.

“We bring the best out of Unilever globally into North America and because of that we create accelerated competitive growth,” Kruythoff told SN.

Take, for instance, the U.S. debut of Unilever’s fastest-selling brand — Clear Scalp & Hair Therapy — already sold in 42 countries. The U.S. lineup includes six shampoos and conditioners for men, 15 for women and four for African American women, in particular.

The launch is just one example of how Unilever combines global technology, scale and expertise with local understanding of consumers, Kruythoff said. Indulgent Magnum ice cream is another import gaining momentum despite the intense competition challenging the take-home ice cream market. “The biggest ice cream brand in the world landed in the biggest ice cream market in the world. It’s a very big category so we need to be sure to continue to drive growth through Ben & Jerry’s and launches such as Magnum,” Kruythoff explained.

Indeed, a differentiated offering is critical coming off a quarter where overall volume growth was negative, albeit marginally. With innovations like Ben & Jerry’s Greek Frozen Yogurt, Kruythoff hopes to entice shoppers with value based on quality rather than the lowest price. He’s also nurturing the “under-invested” Lipton brand with the launch of Lipton Tea & Honey and reinventing tried-and-true staples such as Hellmann’s mayonnaise with limited edition flavors like Spicy Buffalo.

The Dutch native has high hopes for the new introductions, and not just because he stands behind their quality. “I’ve been incredibly impressed with how the trade here works in terms of its sophistication and its collaborative nature,” said Kruythoff, who strives for excellence in retail execution by focusing on proposition, product, place, pack, promotion and price.

Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan is another priority. Its goals are to help 1 billion people improve their health and well-being; to reduce by half the company’s environmental footprint; and to source 100% of agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020.

Unilever North America is doing its part by improving young girls’ lives through the Dove Movement for Self-Esteem and by   working toward sending zero waste to landfills from 30 U.S. factories. The CPG company is also on track to sustainably source 100% of Lipton Tea and the palm oil it uses in soaps and margarines by the end of 2012.

“It’s important to deliver a positive contribution to society but we understand for sure we can drive this as a total industry,” Kruythoff said. 

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