"When I started on the brand 10 years ago, it was an Edsel. Now, it's a sport-utility vehicle," says Mr. Gill, who until recently had the meandering title of Procter & Gamble Co.'s VP-general manager of snack food, U.S. and worldwide strategic planning director, snacks.
SUVs were, in fact, an inspiration for how to take "a mainframe chassis [Pringles] and market and dress it up differently for different people," he says.
That simple formula helped the flagship brand achieve a phenomenal 28% growth in sales to $318.8 million in food, drug and mass merchandisers for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 3. That's despite high-powered new product extensions from P&G itself with No-Fat Pringles and Eagle Snacks, heightened category competition from rival Frito-Lay's Wow! chips and a hard-hitting ad campaign from Frito that disparaged Pringles' ingredients.
But Mr. Gill, 48, says last year's results are merely a continuation of a turnaround started in 1992. "Sales have grown from under $200 million worldwide seven years ago to $1 billion today," he says.
P&G kept that momentum going domestically last year with two new flavors, Pizzalicious and Salt and Vinegar; the rollout of a new 2 oz. canister that fits pint-size palms; and adaptions of its "Once you pop you can't stop" ad effort aimed at demographics ranging from kids and teens to moms and dads. Grey Advertising, New York, handles Pringles.
Mr. Gill, who has spent a decade of his 25-year P&G career on snack brands, also credits Pringles' growth to the company's increased attention to the grocery trade. "We've sharpened our customer strategies in the past year. We're more closely aligned with key customers," he says.
The key, though, has been recognizing and resuscitating the heritage of the 30-year-old brand.
"Pringles has huge internal strengths, we just made them more broadly understood," says Mr. Gill, who in July will be elevated to head up P&G's food and beverage operations in Europe. "We took the core equities and made them more