Still owned and controlled by its founding family, packaged foods giant Mars is one of the world's biggest private companies, with annual sales of around $35bn. It operates across three main sectors. It is perhaps best-known as one of the world's leading confectionery companies with brands including Snickers, M&Ms and Wrigley's gum (see Mars Wrigley Confectionery). However the group's single biggest business is petcare. It is the global leader in petfoods with around 38% market share and a huge collection of brands led by Whiskas and Pedigree. More recently it has expanded its footprint with acquisitions including premium European petfood brand Royal Canin and the Iams and Eukanuba brands in the Americas (but not Europe). The petfoods business is partnered by an extensive presence in pet healthcare. Mars has expanded its Waltham scientific pet nutrition unit into actual veterinary care through the acquisition of Banfield Pet Hospitals and VCA. Together these operate a network of over 2,000 vet practices and hospitals in North America and Europe. Rather smaller than its confectionery and petcare divisions is Mars' compact but powerful collection of consumer food brands. The most widely known is the easy-cook prepared rice and culinary products brand that was traditionally known as Uncle Ben's. Mars invented the concept of branded rice in the 1940s, and is still the global leader by far in that sector. However, the backlash against racial stereotyping that gained traction during 2020 prompted the elimination of the brand's outdated colonial imagery, and it was rebranded as Ben's Original. Sales are in excess of $1bn a year. This is partnered by a small collection of other products including global Dolmio and Seeds of Change pasta sauce business, Masterfoods culinary sauces in Australia, and a few other lesser known regional brands such Middle Eastern rice range Abu Siouf, Ebly and Raris wheat grain, Miracoli and Royco sauces in Germany and South Africa. Grant Reid is global CEO of Mars Inc. Divisional leaders include Poul Weihrach (president, petcare) and Fiona Dawson (president, food & nutrition). The group is wholly owned by members of the Mars family. Stephen Badger, son of Jacqueline Mars, succeeded his cousin Victoria Mars as company chairman in 2017. As a private company, Mars doesn't disclose financial results, but revenues were estimated at around $37bn in 2019.
Capsule checked 16th December 2020
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Adbrands Daily Update 1st Dec 2020: "Baby Steps". Get a dog! It's so much less work than a baby. That's the message behind an inspired campaign for a dog adoption scheme sponsored by Mars-owned Pedigree pet food. The agency is New Zealand hothouse Colenso BBDO. It may be tucked away on the other side of the globe but this is an agency that always punches far above its weight, so much so, in fact that it earned the accolade of Agency of the Decade for the Pacific region at this year's online-only Cannes Advertising Festival because of the number of Lions - 99 in all - it has accumulated since 2010. This campaign is a sheer delight, as a series of misunderstandings cause consternation in the parents of real (human) babies. The ads have got their depiction of both dog owners and over-solicitous parents just right. We especially loved that "Be careful!" warning to the kid descending the slide at a speed of 1 mile per hour.
Adbrands Daily Update 23rd Sep 2020: Mars was one of the first marketers to unveil a complete rebranding of one of its products to remove old-fashioned and potentially offensive racial stereotypes. Uncle Ben's was reborn this week as Ben's Original, with an updated logo and without the long-established image of an elderly Black man in a bow-tie. Mars conducted extensive focus research prior to the rebranding, and customers voiced their preference for the Ben name to be retained, but not the stereotypical portrayal of him.
Adbrands Daily Update 17th Jun 2020: Responding to the re-energised Black Lives Matter movement, PepsiCo and Mars have announced plans to review food products whose branding harks back to America's segregated past. PepsiCo's Quaker Oats division said it would change the packaging of its Aunt Jemima syrup and pancake mix range, acknowledging that the current mascot design was still "based on a racial stereotype". A change of name is also likely before the end of the year. "While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough," said Quaker CMO Kristin Kroepfl. Mars was quick to follow, promising to evaluate "all possibilities" for its Uncle Ben's rice range. "As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the Black community, and to the voices of our Associates worldwide, we recognize that now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben's brand, including its visual brand identity," the company said. Colgate-Palmolve, too, said it would "review and evolve" the branding of its Asian toothpaste brand Darlie, known as Darkie until 1989. In China it is still marketed under a name that translates as "black person's toothpaste".
Adbrands Daily Update 18th May 2020: "Jumping / Rolling". Subtle, it ain't, nor refined, but Adam&Eve DDB's new Australian campaign for Mars-owned pet snack Schmackos is a high-octane treat reminiscent of the Saturday morning cartoons of your childhood. It's also a return to screens for two Australian advertising icons. Dorothy and Roger were first introduced (by TBWA) in 2008 as brand ambassadors for what was then an Australia-only pet treat. Despite their immense popularity with Aussies, they were dropped after four years in favour of a (slightly) more sophisticated style of marketing. Now they've been resurrected by A&E DDB, and given new CGI polish (replacing the old Claymation) by international animation prodco Not To Scale. In honour of the original ads, A&E even tracked down Australian voice artist Deidre Rubinstein to reprise the role of Dorothy. A guilty pleasure!
Adbrands Daily Update 6th Jan 2020: Mars has named Rafael Narvaez as global chief marketing, research and development officer for its foods division, which manages Uncle Ben's, Dolmio and other brands. Narvaez moves from PepsiCo where he was VP marketing & transformation for global foods. He replaces Clarence Mak, who has been appointed as president of Mars Wrigley confectionery in China.
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