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Mars is a leading player in the UK pet food, confectionery and culinary foods sectors. For many years, the group conducted business through three separate companies, Pedigree Petfoods, Mars Confectionery and Food Manufacturers, but these businesses were gradually consolidated between 1998 and 2002 to form a single business unit, known as Masterfoods. The Masterfoods name was later dropped in favour of the umbrella Mars brand, but the group continues to operate a highly decentralised structure with ten separate corporate sites across the country. In most cases, local units of petcare, confectionery and foods report centrally to international divisional heads, rather than to a country-specific UK CEO. Yet at the same time, several of the global group's top managers and marketers are based out of the UK rather than the US. The UK was in fact where Forrest Mars, original architect of the modern Mars business, established himself in the 1930s after falling out acrimoniously with his father Franklin Mars, and it was the effective centre for the international Mars empire before Forrest finally seized control of Mars in the US after his father's death. Many of the current group's international confectionery brands were first created in Britain - including Galaxy, Bounty, Twix and Maltesers - before being merged with their US counterparts. The UK, too, was where Forrest Mars first got into the petfood business. However, the focus on international growth has cost the group its leading local positions in both confectionery and more recently petfood. In the latter, Nestlé gained local leadership in 2018 with around 40% branded share to Mars' 38%, though Pedigree and Whiskas remain among the leaders. In supermarket sales, they are the #2 and #3 brands (behind Nestle's Felix) with sales of £175m and £163m respectively in 2020 (according to Nielsen in The Grocer). Some way behind are Sheba (£77m), Cesar (£35m) and Dreamies (£33m). Similarly, Galaxy and Maltesers are the UK's #2 and #3 chocolate brands (behind Dairy Milk) but all Mars' confectionery products suffered a steep decline in sales during 2020 as a result of manufacturing problems. Despite a rising market for the sector as a whole, and especially local leader Mondelez, Galaxy sales slumped by 14% in 2020 to £187m while Maltesers fell 20% to £176m. M&Ms and boxed selection Celebrations - both also among the Top Ten - fell to £99m and £88m respectively. Snickers and Mars Bar contributed £72m and £66m to sit among the Top 20 brands. Mars' strongest suit by far is gum, in which Wrigley brands in general - led by Extra - have around 94% local share and sales in excess of £210m. In foods, Ben's Original (formerly Uncle Ben's) dominates the branded rice segment with sales of £148m in 2020, while Dolmio is the best-selling pasta sauce range with sales of £116m.
Capsule checked 2nd February 2021
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Historical profile information for Mars UK
Adbrands Weekly Update 28th Jun 2018: Ads of the Week: "Melting Pot". Fresh from triple Grand Prix triumph at Cannes, AMV BBDO unveils a superb new campaign for Mars-owned culinary brand Uncle Ben's. The agency's last Mars foods ad - in which Dominic West laid on the drama at dinner for Dolmio - was a bit of damp squib. This is far more successful, dumping domestic would-be-comedy for a poetic survey of Britain's extraordinary cultural and racial diversity, courtesy of roots poet Benjamin Zephaniah. It may not play so well in regional Brexit-land, perhaps, but here in the urban melting pot it's an absolute joy.
Adbrands Weekly Update 8th Sep 2016: Ads of the Week "Theo's Dog". All power to Mars UK for commissioning a special set of Maltesers ads to run during Channel 4's Paralympics coverage that put disabled people front and centre, recounting real-life funny stories about embarrassing incidents. Rather than put them on a pedestal, AMV BBDO realised they could achieve more impact by simply showing disabled people as the ordinary everyday people they actually are, using laughter to break down any discomfort or prejudice on the part of the able-bodied community. Fine work. See our Facebook page for two more spots.
Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Feb 2015: Ads of the Week: "Winning". Here's a great gag from AMV BBDO for Mars Bar, moving determinedly away from those old "work, rest and play" ads and into the crazy zone with most other Mars products advertising. Great performances from the dogs. Humans not so sure.
Adbrands Weekly Update 9th Oct 2014: Ads of the Week: "You're Not Kung Fu When You're Hungry". Clearly Rowan Atkinson has his eye on a new McLaren supercar... Why else would he decide to return to advertising for the first time in almost two decades, in a witty new take by AMV BBDO on Snickers' "You're Not You When You're Hungry" concept. We're still baffled by the global popularity of Mr Bean, though we have to admit the character is extraordinarily effective in small doses. He was one of the best things about the London Olympics opening ceremony, and makes this one of the cleverest Snickers ads to-date. (We'd happily remove our own eyes with a spoon to avoid witnessing that Joan Collins spot ever again).
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