Close encounter with a Tigress – Brenda Koornneef, Tiger Brands’ Group Marketing Executive

tiger-koornneef005We spoke to Tiger Brands’ Group Marketing Executive about her roles as corporate leader, mentor, innovator and how Tiger Brands is driving women empowerment in the workplace.

Owning beloved South African brands, such as All Gold, KOO and Jungle, Tiger Brands is not only one of the country’s largest and most respected companies, but also a true champion of gender equality.

Three female powerhouses sit on the executive committee, including Brenda Koornneef, the tigress responsible for shaping the success of the group’s brands and leading corporate strategy. Brenda joined Tiger Brands in 2001, as one of the group’s business heads.

Today, this highly respected businesswoman spearheads both group marketing and corporate strategy for the JSE Top 40 Companies.  “Being able to wear both hats gives me a fantastic opportunity to contribute very strongly towards shaping the future of the company. The first thing I noticed at Tiger Brands was just how embedded our brands are in South African society. You can’t help but be impressed and humbled by it. It’s my responsibility to maintain this heritage while keeping the brands relevant in a constantly changing world,” says Brenda.

Through constant reinvention and innovation, Brenda has secured the market-leading status of the group’s brands. Amongst Tiger Brands’ jam packed cabinet of awards, local heritage brand KOO pipped global giant Coca-Cola as the Overall Favourite Brand in the Sunday Times Top Brands Survey in 2015 and 2016.  This is the fourth time that KOO has won the award since 2009. Other brands such as Tastic Rice and Jungle are perennial leaders in their respective market categories.

“The difference in Tiger Brands is that all these home grown heritage brands really belong to the consumers, so it’s vitally important to have their insight and account for their needs. This is where innovation becomes critical: the consumers of today aren’t the same as when these brands were first established decades ago,” Brenda says.

Brenda cites Jungle, which became a household name thanks to the wildly popular Jungle Oats, as a perfect example of brand innovation driven by changing consumer needs.  “In the time I’ve been here, we’ve expanded Jungle greatly. For instance, we launched instant oats, because moms today are not all stay-at-home anymore, so from the perspective of  convenience , instant oats is a really good solution. Jungle Energy bars have also become a market leader, catering to the fact that people are more on-the-go than before.  We’ve brought Jungle Crunchalots to the market as a healthy and delicious breakfast for kids, and most recently, Jungle Ultra for super healthy conscious people” Brenda points out.

So what is this superwoman’s recipe for success? Brenda says that women in business should never believe that there’s a glass ceiling holding them back.

“I get quite passionate when a woman says that it’s impossible for them to rise above a certain point on the corporate ladder. As an equal in the workplace, it is up to you as a person to really push yourself and reach your clearly defined goals. It’s also important to use your strengths and work on your weaknesses to make your way up,” says Brenda.

Tiger Brands has increasingly placed emphasis on empowering women, 3 429 of the group’s 11 505 employees are female. Women occupy 38% of positions from middle management upwards, whilst the group’s lauded graduate trainee programme comprises 44% women.

“I’m very proud of being involved with Tiger because of this aspect. I personally mentor some of our female leaders and I really believe that the women within the company feel empowered and don’t believe that there’s a glass ceiling. Women have as much responsibility at home and in their motherhood as they do in the workplace. I would be the first to say that it’s not easy to balance these responsibilities, but it really can be done,” says Brenda.

Interview with Dale Hes for Sunday Times, Celebrating Women Magazine, August 2016 issue

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