Justin King came close. Stuart Rose was in the frame. As usual Sir Terry Leahy was a strong contender. But this year, for the first time in ages, you chose a supplier as your man of the year.
Gianni Ciserani, the effusive Italian MD of Procter & Gamble UK and Ireland won The Grocer Cup at the IGD Food Industry Awards in October, following a poll of all our readers, for his superb implementation of the Gillette merger into P&G, for his invigoration of a number of P&G’s already strong traditional brands, and for being, well, a thoroughly likeable bloke.
“The fact this industry gives this award to a foreigner says a lot,” he told The Grocer. “This wouldn’t happen in France. It is a sign that the UK is willing to embrace the best of what’s available. It’s an open and inclusive culture, and I feel like I always lived her, like I grew up here.”
Using charm as his sales weapon of choice, Ciserani went around the country doing deals, with unfashionable wholesalers and Sainsbury’s among his more inspired choices. “We are trying to find partners and build relationships,” he told us. Even the media - a channel that P&G has been notoriously wary of and even hostile towards - has been embraced as “indispensable”.
“I have made it my strategy to build an external team - with retailers, wholesalers and the media - that is as good as the internal team, in order to create value in the total industry. We want to make a contribution beyond growing our business. There is no sense if we are only taking business from our competitors.”
The results of this open and collaborative approach are plain to see in this week’s Top Products survey. Among the recent launches, Bold liquid washing tablets (up 795% to £19.4m), Fairy autodishwash tablets (up 387% to £17.6m) and Fairy Tablets (up 14.3% to £23.6m) all got off to a cracking start.
But well-established lines did well too. Brands like Always, up 3.2% to £96.2m, Sure up 5.9% to £87.5m, Pantene up 6.9% to £81.8m, Bounty up 6.3% to £57.4m, Head & Shoulders, up 7.7% to £49.1m, Herbal Essences, up 17.7% to £45.7m and Fairy powder, up 4.4% to £35.8m.
And most important of all, P&G saw growth among the brands it acquired with the Gillette acquisition. Oral B was up 11.8% to £113m, while Gillette was up 5.3% to £266m, taking it ahead of Pampers (one of the few disappointments with sales of £250m, down 5%) to become P&G’s most valuable brand in the UK.
And the best is yet to come for Gillette, with the launch of the new Fusion range of five-bladed razors just a few weeks old when the ACNielsen figures were taken but already performing “ahead of target” according to Ciserani.
With the Gillette acquisition fully integrated at all levels, Ciserani promises “incredibly rich” launch plans for 2007, and is confident that Procter & Gamble UK will succeed in achieving its goal of doubling its UK business to $6bn (£3.25bn) by 2010.
“Gillette represents maybe 50% of that growth, but we continue to focus on innovation. It’s all on track,” he says.
For Ciserani, the only fly in the ointment is if promotional activity, rather than innovation, is allowed to carry the day. “The long-term risk of sustained promotions is that consumers are forced to accept a trade off: lower and lower prices at the expense of innovation and ultimately, true value.”