Me and My Brand: Simon Spears of Mars Petcare

Simon Spears, Mars Petcare UK’s Channel Director for Convenience, explains how the company is keeping up with a pandemic-related surge in demand. He tells us the “Dream Sixteen” range is perfect for both independent retailers and a nation of animal lovers

Simon Spears

Can you please give an overview of your brand?

We’ve launched our Mars Petcare ‘Dream Sixteen’ to support convenience retailers in capitalising on the growth in petcare and increased footfall that many have seen since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Dream Sixteen is a reinvigorated range of must-stocks that should form the core of a retailer’s petcare offering, including a selection of price-marked packs (PMPs). The core range – including favourites such as Whiskas Pouches, Pedigree Dentastix, Pedigree Pouches and Dreamies – will support retailers of all store sizes offer choice to their shoppers.

How is your brand currently performing?

Petcare on the whole is performing well, owing to the number of new pet owners entering the category. In particular, our premium options are seeing growth – including Cesar (+4%)1 and Sheba Pouches (+10%)2 – as shoppers spend more to treat their beloved pets. By having these brands available in a PMP, shoppers feel as though they are getting great value from their local convenience store. Our Pedigree brand is also currently the number one dog wet single serve brand in the UK3, and its pouch format is growing at an impressive +39 per cent1.

How is the pet products market currently performing?

There has been a notable shift in the total petcare market, with value moving away from grocery throughout the pandemic. Mirroring the switch to local providers, convenience penetration is in growth across both cat and dog, as an increased number of shoppers claim to mainly use this channel for their regular shop and top-up missions4, whilst online sales are in growth of +41 per cent5. As 2020 progressed, this trend only continued, with 69 per cent of UK consumers deeming convenience to be an important factor in finding places to shop6. While the short-term impact has been significant, there are signs that these habits are here to stay. A third of pet owners bought food online for the firsttime during lockdown, and 55 per cent of these intend to continue shopping this way during 20217. We expect to see similar developments within convenience, with the channel forming a significant segment of our projected 2.4 per cent compound annual growth over the next five years8.

Do you have any new product development?

Our current focus for Dream Sixteen is ensuring convenience retailers have access to a clear core range within petcare. We have seen the pandemic, with people spending more time at home, accelerate the number of pet owners and coupled with the fact that at the same time people have been seeking out smaller stores during lockdown, this in itself presents an opportunity. Those independent retailers who can rival bigger stores with well-known, trusted brands will be providing their shoppers with convenience and an additional reason to visit.

How are you supporting your brand & NPD?

Earlier this year we added three new PMPs to our convenience range, including some of our bestsellers and premium products. Pedigree Dog Pouches Mixed Selection in Gravy, Sheba Fine Flakes Cat Pouches Poultry Collection in Jelly & Fresh Choice, and Cesar Classics Dog Trays Mixed Selection – carry price-marks between £3.75 – £4.75 and are included in Dream Sixteen to support retailers in offering their customers value and encouraging trade-up. We will also be offering merchandising advice and planograms to help retailers in getting the best out of our products, working with some of our customers to profile best in class displays and sales results.”

How important are independent retailers to your brand?

Since the Covid-19 pandemic shopper habits have changed. Consumers are opting for stores which are smaller and closer to home, to avoid big spaces with large crowds, making independent retailers more important now than ever. Over half of pet owners (55 per cent) have previously stated they fail to purchase in the convenience channel due to lack of choice9, so our Dream Sixteen range has specifically selected Mars Petcare products which will drive sales success for our convenience customers. Dream Sixteen is set to inspire retailers and show them the opportunity the petcare category represents.

What trends are occurring in the sector?

As a result of more time being spent at home during Covid-19, there has been a marked increase in pet ownership. As new pet parents rapidly enter the category, premium options continue to perform well. With 78 per cent of pet parents saying the quality of the food they give their animals is as important as the food they eat themselves10, it has played a key role in driving premium pet food sales. Effective merchandising is essential for luxury pet products, premium segments should make a big impact with high visibility, clear blocking and strong ranging to maximise the chances of shoppers trading up.”

Describe your brand in three words?

Variety, value and quality.

1Purchase Value L52W – Nielsen Homescan Total GB we 28.03.21

2Purchase Value L52W – Nielsen Homescan Total GB we 27.02.21

3Purchase Value L52W – Nielsen Homescan Total GB we 27.02.21

4Nielsen Homescan L52W we 27.02.21, IGD 2021

5Purchase Value L52W – Nielsen Homescan Total GB we 28.03.21

6McKinsey COVID 19 tracker consumer pulse survey Oct 2020

7Nielsen Homescan July 2020

8Mars Internal Projections

9 Mars Omnichannel Study UK 2018

10Mars Pet ownership study, 2017, UK Market