Ayman Nasreldin (pictured), customer development director at Mars Wrigley Confectionery, advises focusing on core range, innovation, mini seasons and digital.
What proportion of the Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK business goes through cash & carries and delivered wholesalers?
What effect has the integration of Mars with Wrigley had on the company’s service to cash & carries and delivered wholesalers?
The integration of Mars with Wrigley has helped broaden our category offer by being able to offer customers and shoppers a wider range of segments and has given us better insight into how we can help the sector grow.
The consolidation has also allowed us to leverage resources within Mars Wrigley Confectionery; for example, we now have a much stronger field organisation calling on independent and symbol stores to stock all our subcategories: gum, fruity confectionery and chocolate.
In addition, the integration has accelerated our innovation platform. This year, we launched independent-specific SKUs such as Very Berry Starburst, which was tailored for the convenience and impulse category, with a particular focus on independent and symbol stores.
What product categories do you deal with in your role as customer development director?
I deal with chocolate, fruity confectionery and gum in the overall confectionery category. However, we split the business into different segments rather than categories. These include sharing, immediate consumption (singles), celebrate (seasonal and gifting), gum and permissible snacking.
How is each of these categories performing within cash & carries and delivered wholesalers?
Cash & carries and delivered wholesalers continue to see a softness in performance versus the total market across most of the segments; I believe we need to work together to turn the overall category performance around. There is still great headroom for growth.
How can C&Cs and delivered wholesalers increase their sales within these product categories?
Cash & carries and delivered wholesalers that are looking to raise awareness and boost sales should ensure they drive in-store disciplines and focus on core range. They should also be tactical in communicating with retailers by signposting the main products to ensure they pick the best SKUs.
It’s important in an impulse category like confectionery to focus on innovation and NPD. Further to this, they need to capitalise on seasonal opportunities, which is an area the grocery market is strong in but one that the confectionery category is developing.
Wholesalers and cash & carries also need to remember that the mini seasons such as Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Diwali and Halloween are as instrumental as Easter and Christmas.
We’ve also seen an investment in digital, especially within the ordering platforms for retailers. There’s been a significant increase in independents ordering digitally instead of going into depots to order. As a result, digital platforms need to be updated, relevant and user-friendly.
In short, my top tips to increase sales would be to focus on core range, innovation, mini seasons and digital.
Are there any C&Cs or delivered wholesalers you wish to highlight as being particularly progressive?
Bestway have been very forward thinking in the digital space. They get the basics right on their digital platforms and increase search optimisation. For example, a retailer could search ‘chocolate’ on the platform and the top sellers would appear.
Booker have also done a great job in driving core range, especially within Booker Premier. We’ve seen great results through the ‘Core In Every Store’ programme. There are also some amazing operators in the buying groups that are driving excellence in execution on their offer on core, value and innovation.
Can you give an example of how you have worked in partnership with a
specific wholesaler to boost sales and profits and highlight the results?
We embarked on a joint learning journey with Bestway and HIM. This saw us complete a piece of work on how independents shop online with Bestway.
The insights revealed that most of the time was spent on the search functionality. We worked together to improve their naming conventions across all categories, which went on to drive the online participation by nearly 50%. In simple terms, it meant that people going on the website had a higher chance of purchasing something rather than going in, getting frustrated and leaving.
We took these insights and applied them to other partners within the cash & carry sector.
How is Mars responding to market challenges, such as concerns about sugar consumption?
It’s clear that sugar reduction remains a massive challenge and the latest Public Health England (PHE) report shows there is still much to be done across the industry. We take it incredibly seriously and are very keen to do our part to help people manage their consumption of our products as occasional treats. Our research & development team have been working hard over the last few years in order to drive a significant amount of our range below 250kcal.
We’re also keen to continue innovating in the space of permissibility, with more permissible SKUs. Our partnership with KIND [a healthy snack business] is a good example of this, as is the launch of Starburst Sugarfree Gum which gives consumers a way to enjoy the great Starburst flavours in a sugar-free format.
What consumer trends (such as a focus on increasing protein consumption) is Mars looking at in terms of NPD?
We’ve seen a trend in premiumisation, especially in gifting. I believe there is a great opportunity to develop the offer with NPD for brands such as Maltesers. We’ve also had incredible success with emerging trends such as protein, with both Mars and Snickers playing an important role in this growing segment.
We’ve seen that gum is a profitable category for retailers, as well as wholesalers and cash & carries. In terms of penetration, gum has a huge amount of headroom, it’s sugar-free and it’s a strong category that plays so well in cash & carries. We need to constantly ask ourselves: how do we leverage that? How do the cash & carries make innovation clear in store and online? Starburst Gum surprised us by becoming a top seller in just a few weeks of launch.
How important are seasonal events to your business?
Seasonal events are incredibly important. For example, in 2017, confectionery drove Halloween growth by 7%, with more than a third of UK consumers buying sweets and/or chocolate for the seasonal event (Nielsen).
What is your background and how do you feel about working for a leading confectionery supplier in today’s market place?
I’ve been in FMCG for 21 years, working for several huge multinationals including PepsiCo and Nestlé. I’ve had experience in other companies, but Mars is the most unique. The company is family-owned and the values are truly lived and breathed in everything we do. We are very true to our Five Principles and have a huge focus on people and capability, ensuring our associates are all looked after – we really care about people.
If you ever tell anyone you work for Mars Wrigley Confectionery and that you sell chocolate, there’s always a smile on their face because there’s always a fond memory of when they tasted chocolate as a child. I’m really very proud to be a Martian.
Tel: Mars Wrigley Confectionery (01753) 550055