Paul Gittins

Director ofmarketing and new product development,Maple Leaf Foods - Agribusiness GroupAfter studying agriculture and business administration at Glasgow University and Leeds Polytechnic in the U.K., Paul Gittins joined London's Fitch Lovell in the mid-1970s as a management trainee.Gittins, 44, spent eight...

Director of

marketing and new product development,

Maple Leaf Foods – Agribusiness Group

After studying agriculture and business administration at Glasgow University and Leeds Polytechnic in the U.K., Paul Gittins joined London’s Fitch Lovell in the mid-1970s as a management trainee.

Gittins, 44, spent eight years with the multinational food conglomerate, working primarily on its Farmers Table poultry line. When he left in 1982, Farmers Table was the leading brand in southern England and Gittins had risen to the level of marketing controller.

He then became marketing controller at Buxton Poultry, a division of London’s Hillsdown Holdings.

In 1988, Gittins accepted his current position as head of marketing for Buxton’s sister company, Waterloo, Ont.-based Maple Leaf Foods – Agribusiness Group.

Gittins’ primary responsibilities lie in the fresh meats division, where he oversees marketing for poultry, pork, beef and lamb.

Three years ago, he launched Prime Poultry, an air-chilled poultry line that now has distribution in much of Ontario and is beginning to penetrate Quebec and the Maritimes.

- Developed the Farmers Table poultry line, produced by Fitch Lovell of London, into the leading branded poultry in southern England.

- Launched Prime Poultry, Canada’s first line of air-chilled poultry, for Maple Leaf Foods Agribusiness Group.

We asked:

Q. Are you a believer in marketing by science or by gut feel?

A. ‘Intuition – you just instinctively know when something will work.’

Q. Was there a significant turning point in your career?

A. ‘Yes. Meeting a true marketing professional who showed me that you can market commodity products.’

Q. Who or what influenced you the most in your marketing career?

A. ‘A whole bunch of talented people from the ad agency, research, design and public relations businesses.’

Q. What is your favorite marketing campaign (not including campaigns with which you have been involved?)

A. ‘Levi’s Jeans campaign – U.K.’

Q. What is your favorite ad (not including ads with which you have been involved)?

A. ‘Currently – Lifesavers.’

Q. What do you do in your spare time?

A. ‘Work, sleep, play soccer, gardening.’

Q. What is your favorite book?

A. ‘Roald Dahl’s collection of children’s stories, such as The Witches and The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which I read from every night to the children.’

Q. What is the most recent book you’ve read?

A. ‘The Money Jar,’ by Grant Sylvester.’

Q. What do you love most about the marketing business?

A. ‘Pace, variety, people.’

Creative/Strategic Sense

‘Paul has a very good creative sense, to the extent that he is very comfortable in a creative setting. We can always work out creative ideas with him.’

‘What I like about Paul is he sees work, he approves it, and he doesn’t meddle.’

‘From everything I’ve seen, he’s second to nobody as far as servicing the customer and knowing the products and retailers.’

‘He looks after the people: with Paul it’s service, service, service.’

Management Style

‘He would never ask you to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.’

‘He gives plenty of autonomy to his people. Of course, he has plenty of experience in what he’s doing.’

‘He lets you do your thing as long as you generally keep him up to date with what you’re doing.’

‘He holds totally informal meetings. Most of our product development meetings are held at night over a bite or a drink.’

‘He’s demanding but fair. He’s not a difficult person to work with. He gives reward where it is due. It sounds small, but he will give you a pat on the back and thank you.’

‘There are very few people who refuse to work weekends if Paul asks. That’s not because you have to, but a reflection of the respect people have for him. You know that if you don’t come in, Paul will work all weekend by himself to get the job done.’

Business Sense

‘Paul, and Hillsdown Holdings, have taught us about marketing. They came in, they chopped and trimmed, and they made Maple Leaf Foods a profitable operation. They brought marketing to what has traditionally been a commodity business.’

‘I think he has a very keen sense of the Canadian market, and what the opportunities are.’

‘He has the customer in mind all the time, which is unusual – and nice – for such a processing-oriented business.

‘He has a good sense of the direction he wants to go in, but he is certainly open to suggestions and other ideas.’

‘Paul and his colleagues are fast on their feet. They respond to an opportunity in the marketplace without spending so much time studying it that it passes them by.’

Corporate Vision

‘In the short term, Paul wants Prime to become the No. 1 branded fresh meat in Canada. In the longer term, he wants to become a major force in the u.s. as well.’

He’s young enough to go to the top of Maple Leaf Foods. At the very least, I see him moving to the top of the Agribusiness Group. Personally, I’d be disappointed if he didn’t go further than that.’

Next issue: Carole Salomon, senior vice-president of marketing, Purolator Courier.