Koozie Group (PPAI 114187, S13) – ranked the No. 10 supplier in this year’s PPAI 100 – has named Pierre Montaubin the new CEO of the Clearwater, Florida-based company, as well as its sister company IMAGEN Brands (PPAI 114197, S10).

Montaubin, a member of the PPAI Product Responsibility Advisory Group (PRAG), was named the company’s first chief product and sustainability officer in January. Since the emergence of sustainability as a major focus for the promo market in recent years, Montaubin becomes the first major supplier CEO to be elevated from such a role.

“You see a lot of our customers asking what we can do in terms of sustainability, and frankly more end users are asking for recycled material products,” Montaubin told PPAI Media. “I think there is a lot more conscience in the industry about wanting to shy away from the trinkets and trash, and what does that look like moving forward, as long as you can sustain the claims.”

Montaubin acknowledged other suppliers who are “ahead of the curve” on sustainability while saying that the industry is still at the beginning of its sustainability revolution.

Koozie Group employees were informed of the news during a town hall on Thursday.

“I’m excited for the future – the sky is the limit,” Montaubin says. “We have the team in place to grow. This market is fairly big, and we have a small market share. If we’re delivering the services, products, brands and technology that our customers are looking for, we should grab more market share.”

With its SAGE Rating improving to an A, Koozie Group is laser focused on achieving an A+ with Montaubin prioritizing customer experience improvements, according to Melissa Ralston, chief revenue officer at Koozie Group.

“Pierre brings 14 years of experience across multiple functions,” Ralston says. “He knows our business and how to make those continuous process improvements work cross-functionally to deliver that better experience for our customers.”


Leadership Transition

In July, Koozie Group announced that former CEO David Klatt had stepped down to serve as an advisor to the supplier’s board of directors.

  • Klatt was also a board member of H.I.G. Capital, the private equity firm that acquired Koozie Group (formerly known as BIC Graphic North America) in 2017.
  • Koozie Group told PPAI Media that Klatt made a “planned transition in March” after his five-year term as CEO and board member ended.

Since Klatt’s transition, the executive team has been working directly with the executive chairman of the board to “continue implementing strategic improvements” for the benefit of customers. 

A company spokesperson told PPAI Media that Koozie Group’s strategy and focus will remain the same, nodding to the board’s belief in the importance of a seamless leadership transition and continuity with customers.

Koozie Group’s Next Biggest Challenge

In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting business, as it did for every firm in the promotional products industry, Montaubin blames the labor shortage for causing issues for distributor customers. 

“It was hard to go back into the rhythm of standard lead times and offering what was consistent with what our customers were expecting,” Montaubin says. “For the last six-to-nine months, we’ve been back. We don’t want to make waves or big announcements, we just want to be consistent day in and day out, delivering products on time to our customers. The next biggest challenge for our company is having to prove ourselves to our customers.”

The first task on Montaubin’s packed agenda is meeting with Koozie Group employees at all of the company’s locations. Then, he’ll be hitting the road, accompanying Ralston and her team as they meet with distributors they believe they can bring value to. 

“Distributors have grown tremendously over the past couple years,” Montaubin says. “Frankly, Koozie Group hasn’t grown that fast. We need to understand what we should do to be better partners to our distributors. I want to listen to them and remove the roadblocks.”

Montaubin’s Background

Montaubin entered the promotional products industry in 2009, when he took over the Hong Kong-based sourcing operations of BIC Graphic and Norwood Promotional Products. In 2017, he moved to the United States, where he’d assume several roles at BIC Graphic North America, such as vice president of global support services and senior vice president of product management and sourcing. 

Prior to joining the promo industry, Montaubin held operational and financial project management roles with BIC, Neuf Telecom and Unilog Management Consulting, with clients such as Louis Vuitton, Gerflor and Riso. He received his BA from the University of Provence and a Master of Management from the NEOMA Business School.

Recent Developments

BIC Graphic rebranded to Koozie Group in 2020. That same year, Koozie Group acquired fellow high-profile supplier IMAGEN Brands.

Since then, the company has been working with a third party to conduct impartial end-user surveys to identify what it calls KG Factor items – products designed to lessen environmental impact through longevity.

  • The initiative is part of Koozie Group’s product strategy around its sustainability commitment called “Keep It. Give It.”
  • Today, 77% of its product assortment – a total of 1,944 items – has earned the KG Factor designation. The company’s goal was originally to reach the 50% mark by 2024.

In a recent article in PPAI Magazine, Montaubin said of the company’s spend in Asia, 90% of it is still coming from China. In comparison, in 2016-2017, it was 97%.

  • Over the past few years, some production has been moved from China to Vietnam, Bangladesh and India, and the company has considered Mexico as an alternative source.