FUSE University: Interview with Switlana Wojcickyj, Director of Packaging Science & Technology at Mars Chocolate

FUSE University Alumnus and SVA Masters in Branding student, Chi Wai Lima, had the opportunity to catch up with Switlana Wojcickyj, Director of Packaging Science & Technology at Mars Chocolate last year in Chicago. 

CL: Can you tell us a bit about your background and what you do at Mars Chocolate?
I recently joined Mars Chocolate as Director of Packaging after spending some years as Director of Innovation at Gatorade. My background is in engineering so my focus tends to be mostly on structure rather than on design.  I do try hard though to keep my team and me thinking creatively so we can provide solutions that are possible.


CL: At Pepsi, you worked on a lot of beverages, and now at Mars you are doing candy packaging. Is there a big difference between beverage and candy packaging?
It’s very similar in terms of the product and innovation life cycles. Everything works generally the same. The difference is who the consumer is.

Whether it be Pepsi or Mars, there is large investment in manufacturing assets. So when you proceed to innovate and change the structure of a product, large costs become real obstacles. You must be creative in your approach. I try to tell a holistic story.

A few years ago at Pepsi, we set out to change a 32oz bottle of Gatorade. The cost of this change was going to be very high, so we needed to sell a story. We came up with a new brand proposition. We introduced 2 new innovations. We staged Gatorade as the beverage to drink during exercise and introduced 2 new drinks; one pre-workout and one post-workout.  By doing so, we were able to tell a holistic story—one very much rooted in what consumers were looking for.


CL: Do you find that when people are now innovating different materials, that being environmentally responsible is having a big impact on that?
Sustainability and going green is really important, but unfortunately it’s very unrealistic to a lot of companies still. I’d be the first to recommend going green, but in the eyes of the larger corporations, this issue is still low on the priority list.

Pepsi does a decent job in researching sustainable materials and I hope to take those learnings and apply them at Mars. One of Mars’s 5 principals is dedicated to sustainability—all the more reason.

To succeed in this endeavor though, you must have a good story behind sustainability. Coke did a great job in marketing their plant bottle by telling a story around how 40% of it is made out of plants.


CL: I have read reports where creating something from scratch takes much less energy than producing something from recycled material. What’s your take on that?
It’s true; at least I know it is with plastics.

For example, Naked uses bottles made from 100% recycled materials. It costs more to produce, but it is more in line with the brand’s strategy. It makes all the sense in the world – and luckily the marketing department is supportive of this. High cost of production will always be our little challenge. It all depends on which industry you’re in and how tight things are.


CL: What lead you to become more involved in the engineering side versus the creative side?

Karim Rashid said during his presentation this year that we need more chemical engineers who can push the limits and encourage change. I’m a chemical engineer by trade. I also don’t like sticking to the rules. I was always very creative and entrepreneurial. I enjoy the creative side as much as the technical side and I find that packaging is a good place to be to combine both aspects.

I love how packaging becomes the voice of a brand and how it plays a role in telling a brand’s story. Packaging is a communication tool, not just a pretty design.

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