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Mars Wrigley GM talks innovation, e-commerce and M&M’s Caramel

Jeremy Daveau says grocery is the "backbone" of the company’s sales channels

Ten years after Mars acquired Wrigley
for US$23 billion, the two companies have come together to create a new global confectionery giant called Mars Wrigley Confectionery. The company owns some of the world’s most iconic confectionery brands including M&M’s, Snickers and Juicy Fruit.

Jeremy Daveau, general manager for Mars Wrigley’s Canadian operations, recently talked with Canadian Grocer about the integration process, plans for the new entity, and an emerging e-commerce strategy.

Both of these companies have roots that go back a long way . Did you find that the cultures were well aligned?

Yes, very well aligned. I had the opportunity to work on both sides of the business before my current role and I have to say they were very close. Mars had acquired Wrigley almost 10 years ago, so there was a legacy of working together. The culture was not a big hurdle in the combination process.

Innovation has become a mantra in the business space these days. Can you provide some insight into how that is manifesting itself within your company?

For us, innovation is a core growth driver. We operate in an impulse category where the consumer is constantly looking for something new, so we have to push innovation. If we don’t innovate we are moving away from the mind of consumers. It’s about bringing something new and relevant to consumers all the time.


Can you provide examples?

we brought M&M’s Caramel to market; we brought Excel Chewy Mints as well as Excel Soft Chew , and we brought some nice activations to Skittles. It’s not just about product innovation – it’s also about the way you activate your brands. The Skittles Pawn Shop was supposed to be a one-off three years ago, and it’s been three years in a row because consumers ask us to bring it back every holiday season.

What does the Canadian market look like for the company? Where are some areas you see opportunity, and where are some areas where there might be potential challenges?

The Canadian confectionery market is very mature. We have a level of penetration and consumption, but there is still room to grow compared to the U.K. or U.S. grows about 2% per year and the opportunity for us is to grow faster so we can bring some value to our customers. Last year we grew 5% when the market grew 2%. We have iconic brands that stand for quality, simple pleasure, joy and indulgence. They are very well established in Canada, and our consumers are always willing to try new products. We are also investing heavily in the marketplace: We are a big advertiser, we have a lot of sponsorship and partnerships, we’re very strong in activation and we have a big sales force. We do not cut our presence like so many companies looking for efficiencies. We have a physical presence, which I think is our competitive advantage.

Can you provide some insight into how grocery ranks among the company’s sales channels, particularly given the changing nature of retail? 

Grocery is still the backbone of our channels and the centre of attention. All traditional channels, including convenience, have to be relevant due to the nature of our product portfolio. We are paying attention to the growing e-commerce market. It’s a very low base, but what we’re doing now is partnering with our customers because they are also evolving towards e-commerce. We have to do this together – we can’t do it on our own.

You occupy an interesting space because of the impulse nature of your products, but what do your e-commerce efforts look like?

The impulse category is fully compatible with the changing customer experience – you just want to make sure you’re visible and have a point of interruption during the process. We have a presence with pure-play companies like Amazon, but also with traditional players like the Walmarts of the world. It’s very important for us to be present with pure-play , brick and mortar and click and mortar.

Health consciousness continues to be a major concern for consumers. How well do you think Mars Wrigley is positioned to succeed in that kind of environment?

We’re very active, but we have to maintain a very high pace because it’s evolving very fast. On our core brands we are making some bold choices: cutting the calorie intake and switching all artificial colours to natural colours in the next five years. We’re also offering more shareable propositions on existing brands. It’s not about creating new brands, it’s about offering more choice.


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