An Interview with Gustaf Rabe, Business Development Manager at Tetra Pak

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Gustaf Rabe, and I am responsible for the business development team for USA and Canada. I am from Gothenburg, Sweden, and I have worked at Tetra Pak for 17 years — 14 of those have been based in Denton, Texas and 3 in Modena, Italy. I have four children with my wife Jeanette, who is an American.

What is the story behind Tetra Pak? When did you start operations in the US? 

Tetra Pak was established in 1951 in Lund, Sweden. Our founder, Ruben Rausing, sought to create a package for milk that required minimum material while still delivering maximum food safety and quality. He was famously quoted as saying, “A package should save more than it costs.” The first Tetra Pak package, the tetrahedron-shaped Tetra Classic, debuted in 1952 with cream in 100 ml cartons from Lundaortens Mejeriförening, a dairy in Lund. Over the years, Tetra Pak continued to develop innovative packaging and food processing solutions that would change the way food and beverages were packaged and consumed. Our aseptic technology, that allows a product to remain safe and delicious without refrigeration, is recognized as one of the most important innovations of the 20th century. Today, Tetra Pak® packages are available in more than 175 countries around the world.

Tetra Pak® packages first hit the U.S. market in the 1960s. We established U.S. operations in 1984 at the Denton facility we still occupy today. Since then, Tetra Pak has expanded its U.S. presence to include three packaging material production plants, a straw production plant, a cheese production equipment plant and several commercial sales offices.

What are the challenges and opportunities for Tetra Pak in the US?

One of the biggest challenges we face here in the U.S. is lack of consumer awareness about Tetra Pak. In many other markets, like Sweden and Mexico, Tetra Pak is a household name with a strong reputation for quality. In the U.S., we are just starting to build our brand and reputation with consumers.

Tetra Pak has many opportunities in the U.S., as we are still, after all these years, relatively “new” to the market. Yes, it is true our cartons have been present in the U.S. for over 50 years, but it was not until more recently—with the changing demographics, carton awareness, Millennial purchasing drivers and the higher demand for environmentally friendly and sustainable packaging—that we have really started to get attention. We are also very diverse in our offerings, which showcases the great quality of the products we can package and also the wide range of our packaging portfolio. Today in the market, you can buy anything from plain water to a ready-to-drink Bloody Mary. So while many think of us as a milk and juice company, we are much more than that!

What are your expectations with your SACC Texas membership?

We expect to be part of the SACC community in a value-added way and, hopefully, build some long-term relationships while also participating in local Dallas initiatives.

What are your favorite things about Dallas and Texas?

Personally I like the weather! I know it gets hot, but after many years of long winters and rainy Gothenburg, the sun is still so wonderful to me. I also enjoy the ease of living in DFW. It makes for a good life for my family.

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