Mikael Carlsson started working in the food industry 25 years ago, so the work he does today is built on solid foundations of experience. Having spent several years working for heavyweight companies such as Unilever and Pågen, he finally found his way to Continental Bakeries and Gille, where he has now started his fourth year as CEO.
“Pågen bakes bread and cinnamon croissants, so it wasn’t a huge leap to make the move to cookies,” says Mikael Carlsson.
Mikael Carlsson is 47 years old and a die-hard football fan. Born and raised in Kristianstad, he now lives with his partner and their 13-year-old daughter in Helsinborg. When he is not sitting in his office in Åsljunga, meeting customers or visiting head office in the Netherlands, he enjoys playing tennis and running, travelling to Mediterranean destinations with his family and watching football. A lot of football. Unsurprisingly perhaps, Helsingborgs IF (HIF) is the club closest to his heart.
“And Liverpool,” adds Mikael, referring almost in awe to the team he went to see play live at Anfield Road for the first time last year.
He draws daily on his deep love of sport and his background as a football trainer, which provide inspiration and help him maintain a productive leadership style.
“I’m a big fan of leadership – it’s so important to work as a team.”
Over and above his leadership, Mikael Carlsson is sure that the experience he has built up over the years makes him an excellent fit as CEO of Gille.
“I have plenty of experience in working with big customers – at both national and international level – which is hugely important. It’s crucial to work closely with the big customers. I’ve done a lot of this in my previous jobs, and I see it as one of my greatest strengths, along with my approach to leadership.”
What captured Mikael Carlsson’s attention when he was offered the position at Gille four years ago was the company’s history. Not only did he think it looked like an exciting company with excellent opportunities for growth, but he was also quick to spot the cultural heritage with the deeply rooted coffee traditions that permeate Scandinavian society. Traditions he was keen to share with the rest of the world.
What are your goals for Gille?
“One of my goals is to reach the younger generation; another is to get our products out onto the export market to an even greater extent. Reaching the dream goal of SEK 500 million in turnover is one of my short-term targets. We came close last year, when we managed ‘only’ SEK 499 million – so I hope we can make it this year. It’s been one of my goals since I came here. Once we achieve that milestone, we’ll take the next step and raise the bar.”
And so to the 64,000-dollar question: what’s your favourite cookie?
“I really like the Punch rolls. And the Gille Pastries. The patisserie products are excellent. And, of course, I get to taste all the products together with the production developers – so I’ve chewed my way through a fair number of tasters … So it’s lucky I’m so keen on tennis and running,” concludes Mikael Carlsson with a chuckle.