Petfood Industry - December 2017 - 19
www.PetfoodIndustry.com | 19
State-of-the-art pet food R&D at Mars' Innovation Center
Mars Petcare North America's
Innovation Center includes a Pet
Feeding Center with about 230
cats and dogs, many adopted.
➥Much of Mars Petcare North America's
product development research takes place at
its state-of-the-art, gold LEED-certified Innovation Center in Thompson's Station, Tennessee,
USA, near the company's headquarters.
Supporting 22 North American sites, the
facility opened in fall 2014 and includes:
❯ A Pet Feeding Center with about 230 cats
and dogs, many adopted from local shelters.
After several months serving as palatability,
digestibility and stool quality testers, each pet
is carefully "rehomed" with a Mars associate,
friend or family member.
❯ A Quality and Innovation Center housing
product development support staff and activities, and serving as one of five regional labs
globally while supporting quality, safety and
two of those years spent in pet care), Johnson has been president of the North American pet nutrition business since fall
2015. During his time in charge, he has overseen the integration of the P&G pet food brands that Mars acquired, while
also pushing a consumer- and customer (retailer)-centric
focus throughout the organization.
"I'm very passionate that, in order to stay successful,
you need to be very close and connected to consumers and
their ever-evolving needs and wants," he says. "And to your
customers, who are also evolving and changing very fast."
That means sharing consumer research insights with associates and making customer feedback visible throughout the
company. Besides spending significantly on in-home research,
the company is also increasingly investing in research on how
consumers shop, including via a unique in-store research
facility near the company's headquarters.
"This is not the only thing we do, but we have a facility
where we're able to physically represent a Walmart, a
PetSmart, a Petco," Johnson said. "You can literally open a
door and walk into a Dollar General or an independent pet
store. And there we are able to partner with our customers on
understanding how consumers want to buy their products,
the kind of new products they want to see, how they want to
see them merchandised."
Research key to understanding customer
Johnson explained that Mars also conducts traditional
ethnographic consumer research as well as research around
Industry December 2017
product testing at the company's North American
❯ A product development center with dry, wet, and
treat production lines that allow Mars Petcare to
create new innovations without interrupting regular
production lines in its manufacturing sites. It also
serves as a source of technical expertise for the
manufacturing network to test new or more efficient
methods of production.
❯ A Discovery and Learning Center, which hosts
human sensory panels, serves as an education
space for customers and vendors, and a gathering
hub for company associates.
The Innovation Center campus currently spans
30 acres and houses nearly 200 associates. The
walls of all of the buildings are decorated with
oversized photos of associates' pets.
Headquarters: Franklin, Tennessee, USA (North American
Pet Nutrition headquarters); Brussels, Belgium (global headquarters)
Facilities: More than 20 manufacturing locations across
Officers: Mark Johnson, Regional President of Pet Nutrition
North America, Mars Petcare
Sales: Mars Petcare is growing and gaining share in
Brands: US brands include Pedigree, Iams, Royal Canin,
Greenies, Dentastix, Temptations, Nutro, Cesar, Crave, Sheba
and Eukanuba; veterinary practices include Banfield, Blue Pearl
and Pet Partners; specialty products include Wisdom Panel
Canine DNA Tests and Whistle Location and GPS Tracker
Distribution: Nationwide food, drug and mass, and pet
specialty retailers, and online retailers
Employees: More than 26,000 associates across the US
Petcare businesses (more than 45,000 associates globally)
Website/social media: www.mars.com/global/brands/
petcare; www.bettercitiesforpets.com; @MarsPetcareUS on
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