interview by Bozhidara Georgieva

The Regional Market Director for Mars Balkan East on how the company balances between providing tasty products and responsible business

predrag milincic.jpg

Mars products are so ubiquitous that they have become a part of our everyday lives: we snack on Snickers and Twix, we chew Orbit, we cook Uncle Ben's and feed our pets with Pedigree and Whiskas. A family-owned company, Mars dominates the world market and stepped in Bulgaria 25 years ago. The company realizes its responsibility towards the environment and the health and wellbeing of consumers, and implements policies that are clean and energy and waste-efficient. Predrag Milinčić, Regional Market Director for Mars Balkan East, is eager to share with us more about the company's philosophy and the new products it will introduce this year on the Bulgarian market.

Which is your favorite Mars product and why?

My favorite Mars product is Maltesers and I'm really happy that it is finally available in our region. I like it because it is bite sized and sharable so it is a good option both for a snack on-the-go and for moments of fun spent together with your family and friends. In my opinion, Maltesers is a must-eat for all choco lovers and I am happy that Bulgarian consumers will have the chance to become part of its story, as we are launching the brand on the local market.

Which are Mars' most popular products in Bulgaria? Is the taste of the Bulgarian consumer different from the one of consumers in Western Europe or the USA?

The most popular Mars products in Bulgaria are chocolate bars: Snickers, Bounty, Twix, and Mars. Another beloved brand is Orbit chewing gum with the highest market share in the category.

The taste of Bulgarian consumers is not that different from the one of the consumers in Western Europe or the USA. What differs is the shopping behavior. The share of modern trade in Western Europe and the USA is very high and people usually do their shopping in hypermarkets and buy products for the whole week, so the multipacks of 10+ bars are really popular. In Eastern Europe traditional trade still prevails, so people prefer single bars rather than multipacks.

What are the specifics of the Bulgarian market and what position Mars holds on it?

I have been market director of Mars Bulgaria for several months now and I am really happy that I have the opportunity to work for the local market because it provides many opportunities for development. It is highly competitive and there is a strong demand for high quality products. That is why we are glad that for 25 years now Mars Bulgaria team has managed to transfer the good practices of the company on a global level and meets the needs of Bulgarian consumers. Throughout the years Mars has developed a broad network of customers and distributors, currently reaching more than 40,000 outlets. Mars' impressive portfolio is represented in Bulgaria by gum and confectionery brands such as Snickers, Twix, Mars, Bounty, Orbit, 5, M&M's, Skittles and by pet food products such as Whiskas, Pedigree, Sheba, Cesar etc. Mars is also a large producer of food, one of our most emblematic brands is Uncle Ben's.

Our brands are well-known and preferred by consumers of all ages. Mars is a market leader in the segment of gum with a market share of more than 88%. We have strong positions in the chocolate segment, too, as Snickers is the top selling chocolate brand in the country.

This year Mars is planning to release 4 new products on the Bulgarian market. Which are they and what are their strong sides?

Mars' key priority is to expand its portfolio in Bulgaria, so that consumers could have the best choice. That is why we are launching 4 new brands on the local market. One of them is my favorite Mars product, Maltesers. I can guarantee with almost 100% certainty that once you taste these crunchy bites you will love them. However, my "special attitude" to Maltesers is not the only reason why it will be launched in Bulgaria. It is the best selling chocolate in England and one of the top 3 in all European countries in which it is present, so it is not a surprise that the brand will step on the local market as well.

By the end of the year a new chewing gum product will be available in the retail network in Bulgaria, the first Mars gum product launch in 10 years. The other 2 new brands are in the pet care segment. One of them is Perfect Fit, which will offer Bulgarian pet owners premium cat and dog food of the highest quality. The other brand is product for cat hygiene.

Predrag Milinčić, Regional Market Director for Mars Balkan East

Is it possible for a company for chocolate desserts like Mars to help in the fight for healthier eating and living? How do you achieve this?

We are committed to supporting the health and wellbeing of our consumers. Our main priority is to fully respond to the concerns of modern people about nutrition. Mars has introduced a number of initiatives, aiming to reformulate products and to provide more transparency. All our activities are based on sound scientific evidence and real consumer demand and we do hope that we are setting a trend in the industry and that other companies will also follow our example.

Most of all, we support transparency, especially on nutrition labeling, which helps people select the foods that are right for them and their families. We want consumers to understand that our chocolate and confectionery products are an occasional treat. In the last few years Mars has taken some important steps to improve its products' nutrition value. We reduced industrially produced trans fats in all our chocolate products to the technically unavoidable minimal levels. We are working with industry groups and regulators in Europe and the USA to ban the use of partially hydrogenated fats in foods. Regarding the calories intake – the single serving size we have established is less than 250 kcal.

Mars is a global producer of foods such as rice and noodles, so our main priority is to deliver not only abundance of choice, but also high quality to the consumers. Our goal is to reduce sodium by 20% across our food portfolio in addition to a 25% reduction already achieved since 2007.

As a responsible company, we will continue further developing our policies in order to contribute to consumers' health and wellbeing all over the world.

What policies do you have for protection of the environment?

Mars has been monitoring its environmental impact for a long time. In order to address key global environmental, social and economic issues, in 2017 we launched our Sustainability in a Generation Plan. We are investing $1 billion over the next few years to accelerate progress against some urgent threats, including climate change. One of our key priorities is energy saving and we are really happy that today 100% of the company's operations in 10 markets worldwide are powered with renewable electricity: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Lithuania, Mexico, Poland, Spain, the UK and the USA.

Products packaging is another important topic in which we take responsibility. Mars is working towards 100% recyclable packaging by 2025. We have almost achieved this goal, as currently above 90% of our packages are recyclable. Sending zero waste to landfills from our facilities is another achievement we are all proud of.

We will continue moving in the same pace, because there are a lot of issues that need solution and as a global company Mars has the capacity to contribute to solving them. We want to live on a healthy planet with healthy people and it is up to all of us to achieve this.

Mars is a family company. How does this reflect on its corporate philosophy?

Throughout our 100-year history we have been committed to doing business in a way that positively impacts people and the environment and ecosystem in which we operate. Mars, one of the world's largest companies, is a family-owned company and since the beginning of business the decisions are based on the five principles: quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency and freedom. In today's business, we keep these principles as a basis in decision making in order to set up a long-term plan that will help us grow in a way that can make us proud.

Several months ago we marked a milestone in Mars' history. For the first time we clearly articulated our purpose and shared it externally: "The world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today." Our company has always been doing business with a clear purpose, but now we want to further boost our culture and to spread the message that we really need to think beyond today and focus on tomorrow. This is the belief encoded in Mars' DNA and shared by 115,000 associates.

It is amazing to see how all these principles for sustainable business are put into practice. Mars does have a unique corporate culture, which are not only empty words, but real actions, real care and real attitude. When I started working for the company I was absolutely impressed by the fact that every member of the team has the freedom to organize his or her work independently, to make improvements, even to make mistakes. I realize, and I am sure so do all my colleagues, that we are a part of a big family which has the power to make positive changes for the whole world.


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