We are talking to Predrag Milinčić, Regional Market Director for Mars Balkan East, about the company’s activities, business values, peculiarities of this market and further plans.
Mars has recently revealed its Mars Purpose. What message does it relay?
— Mars Purpose reflects the values we have been advocating for over a century. We strive to constantly move the boundaries and set ourselves new challenges to transform the way we operate on a daily basis, because “the world we want tomorrow, starts with how we do business today”, which is also the key message of our Purpose. As such, Mars Purpose is a thread that connects all aspects of our business as a global, fast-growing company dedicated to having a positive impact on the people, environment and ecosystems in which we are present. We believe that since we are a big company, we can do more good things. Purpose without results is not possible, and results without a purpose are insignificant. That’s why, this year, we are even more determined to communicate Mars Purpose even louder to our associates, business partners, suppliers, and consumers. We have significantly changed our visual identity which now reflects more our focus on sustainable future and our conviction that we cannot grow and progress if the planet, people and communities that we rely on are not growing together with us.
How do these changes fit the company’s history and values set at the very beginning?
— From the very beginning, we have been a company that is led by principles. Mars Five Principles – quality, responsibility, reciprocity, efficiency and freedom – are deeply rooted in the company’s history and culture. They unite and lead over 115,000 associates of different generations, languages and cultures around the world, and at the same time, strengthen relationships with consumers, business partners, and communities in which we are present. It was based on these values that we have articulated our current Mars Purpose. We did not create it from the beginning, but owing to it, we now communicate what makes the foundation of our business in a much clearer manner.
In addition to the new visual identity, the company has also articulated its mission related to climate change and responsible procurement of resources. Can you tell us more about this?
— During its long tradition, Mars remained a family-owned business which gave us special freedom to plan our business long-term and to invest in innovative and sustainable practices. As a result of long-term research and monitoring of our environmental, social and economic impact, in 2017, we formulated the Sustainability in a Generation Plan, focusing on areas where we can make the most significant breakthroughs in addressing some of the world’s biggest problems identified in the UN sustainable development goals. These are the healthy planet, thriving people and nourishing wellbeing. Even before launching this plan, we made sure that our business was sustainable, and now we have defined the focus of our activities and the strategy. In the first year, we continued with the good practice that has yielded results so far, but we have also started transforming our supply chains, and building key partnerships with government, NGOs and the private sector. We are aware that the changes are not immediate, but we take responsibility today to pave the way for changes that will allow us to create really good sustainable practices in the future.
Mars Purpose and the commitment to a sustainable future and mutual benefits are incorporated into the purpose of all your products. How much do you focus on the safety and quality of the ingredients you use in production?
— Mars, as the manufacturer of the globally renowned food brands for people and pets, was one of the first companies to have elevated marketing standards to a higher level in 2017 and developed consumer awareness about changing life habits for better. These standards include, inter alia, nutritional information, packaging, and promotion methods. Today, all our products contain a nutritional label on the front of the packaging that clearly indicates the number of calories, the amount of sodium, sugar, protein, fat and saturated fat per serving. By 2021, 95% of the company’s portfolio, compared to the current 72%, will have met the WHO recommendations for the number of calories, added sugar, sodium and fats, which are included in Mars criteria for nutritional values of food. In addition to being mindful of the quality of ingredients that we procure from sustainable sources, we are trying to rely on renewable energy sources in production. For example, Mars purchases enough wind power to cover the production of the total quantity of M&M’s, our number one brand in the world.
Are you satisfied with the market placing your products in a group of foods and confectionery products?
— Mars is one of the world’s leaders in the segment of chocolate, chewing gums and pet food. According to the latest research, our brands Orbit and Airwaves occupy the No 1 spot in the category of chewing gums in Serbia, while the M&M’s chocolates recorded an excellent growth of over 40% this year.
Does the confectionery market in Serbia change in line with the demands of the new generation of the Millennials?
— In recent years, international brands have been approaching consumers more strongly through product and promotional innovations. We, in Mars, strive to satisfy the needs of our consumers, and we also like to surprise them with a limited series of specific products or seasonal assortment. However, innovation for us does not only imply a new product, but also a way of communicating with consumers and the environment. Communication is adapting to new technological trends, which is important when it comes to the Millennials and new generations that spend a lot of their time online, on YouTube and Instagram platforms. Generally, today’s consumers want to be informed, to know what is in the food they eat, but also they want to know about the company behind those products, and that’s why transparency and openness have become important criteria for evaluating both the company and the brand.
What are the particularities of the regional market and how does Mars adapt to them?
— In addition to strong international brands, there are numerous renowned local producers with a long business tradition and a wide range of products in all subcategories (biscuits, chocolates, candies), operating in the region’s markets. The important thing is that together we make a good market combination, there is enough room for everyone, and our roles are somewhat divided. International producers, which is what we are, are expected to lead in innovation and transfer global practices to local markets. Mars was one of the first companies to introduce the category of bite-size chocolates through its M&M’s brand. Traditional chocolate has been shaped into small bites, with the total weight being the same as whole bar of chocolate, thus making it ideal for sharing with others. This practice has been implemented in some local markets and we can see that local manufacturers have also started following this trend.