Food In Canada

Who’s Who 2023: Karla Schlieper, president of Mondelez Canada

By Mark Cardwell   

Food In Canada Mondelez

Mondelez Canada president Karla Schlieper embraces diversity as key growth driver

As vision statements go, Karla Schlieper’s personal take on business and consumers reflect her respect and appreciation for people and the planet.

“I’ve always looked at business as an opportunity to serve people in a better and more sustainable way,” said Schlieper, the Brazilian-born president of Mondelez Canada, maker of iconic snack food brands like Ritz, Christie, Cadbury, Oreo, and Dad’s. “I see business as end-to-end and integrated, and I believe you must start with what consumers want.

Schlieper’s holistic approach to life and commerce first took root on her family’s farm in the mid-west part of Brazil, where her German immigrant grandfather first grew coffee. Her father still grows crops and raises cattle there.

“Seeing things grow in front of me made an impact,” explained Schlieper, who was born near Curitiba in southern Brazil. “(The farm) is still the place that I go to rest and recharge.”


She credits her mother for both the strong character and positive outlook on life that she shares with her older and younger sisters. “She opened opportunities for us to see what the broader world had to offer,” said Schlieper. “It would have been easy to stay at home, but she incentivized us to go and see the world.”

It was through her membership in the Rotary Club, one of the largest community service groups in Brazil, that Schlieper got her first chance to travel: a year-long student exchange program to the United States. “I love to learn about different cultures,” she said. “I’m a very curious person, which drives a lot of what I do.”

After returning home, Schlieper, a Catholic, enrolled in the business administration program at Mackenzie Presbyterian Institute, a private, 150-year-old university in Sao Paulo, the biggest city in Brazil and the 12th largest in the world.

At 17, she also landed a student internship at Unilever, and joined the British multinational consumer goods behemoth full-time in the marketing department after graduating in 1994.

“The role spoke to my passions for learning, understanding the business itself, getting to know the customers and how to add value to the business,” said Schlieper, now 49.

Over the next 18 years, she rose through the ranks of Unilever, becoming a regional and/or global manager and marketing director of top soap and food brands like Lux, Dove, Fab Cleaning, Knorr and Arisco. She also picked up a post-grad marketing degree and an MBA at the University of Michigan along the way.

“I thrived because there were many ways to learn about different cultures and consumer backgrounds, all aspects that speak to how I approach life and business,” said Schlieper, who spent three years at Unilever’s head offices in the United Kingdom before returning home to Brazil in 2011, when she met and married her husband, Daniel.

She also left Unilever and spent two years as marketing vice-president of Flora, a subsidiary of Brazilian meat processing giant JBS Group that makes cosmetics and home care products.

“After 17 years at Unilever, which is a very structured organization, I wanted to try something different,” said Schlieper. “Flora had an entrepreneurial mindset for a new business. It was an amazing opportunity to exercise different muscles.”

In 2013, when her first son Raphael was born, Schlieper joined Mondelez International as business unit director of beverages, then biscuits. After serving as president, biscuits, for Latin America (a two-year stint that started in 2017, when her second son Theo was born), she became president of Mondalez Southern Cone division, which handles operations in Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. In January 2022, she was named president of Mondelez Canada.

“I was eager to come to Canada,” said Schlieper, who arrived during a $250-million upgrade to Mondelez’s four manufacturing facilities in Ontario that aims to both fuel growth and consolidate its brands’ positions.

In addition to spending time with her leadership team and “encouraging them to think differently so that we can continue to learn and grow as a company,” Schlieper is enjoying life in Canada with her husband, who is working in pet nutrition, and her children, who are enrolled in local schools.

“I was told to embrace the winter (so) the kids are learning to skate. We took our first skiing vacation this winter,” she said. “It has been fun getting to know the culture in Canada and meeting people. It’s all about appreciating the differences in others that enable us to grow.”  

This article was originally published in the April/May 2023 issue of Food in Canada.

Print this page


Stories continue below