Interview: Kalpesh Parmar, Country general manager, Mars Wrigley India

‘We manufacture 80% of our products locally’

In the confectionery category, the key brands for us in India are Snickers, Galaxy and Boomer.
In the confectionery category, the key brands for us in India are Snickers, Galaxy and Boomer.

Mars Inc., which is home to global brands such as Snickers, Galaxy and Pedigree, sees India as a key market for its confectionery and pet food businesses. Kalpesh Parmar, country general manager, Mars Wrigley India, talks to Christina Moniz about the opportunities for growth in India, and its localisation and pricing strategy. Excerpts:

How would you sum up the performance of Mars over the last couple of years?

To start with, let me first share some insights about the sectors in which we operate. Confectionery is currently a large opportunity in India, estimated at 20,000 crore and growing at a CAGR of 10% or more. Here, chocolates account for around13,000 crore while gums and mints are valued at over `8,000 crore.

The other category, pet food, was valued at 4,000 crore in 2021 and is set to reach10,000 crore over the next five years. So both categories currently look very promising.

During the pandemic, both our businesses did well, especially on e-commerce channels. Today, e-commerce accounts for a decent, double-digit percentage share of our business and it continues to be a growth driver for the company. Over the last couple of years, we have seen some positive trends in confectionery, which is usually an impulse business. Consumers had begun stocking up larger packs of our chocolates and candies for at-home snacking. In pet care too, we saw consumers purchase pet food online in larger pack sizes during the past couple of years. We expect this trend to continue, and our endeavour is to continue to make available our products in the right sizes and at the right prices.

Mars has a wide range of brands in confectionery and pet food. Which of these would be your growth drivers in India?

In the confectionery category, the key brands for us in India are Snickers, Galaxy and Boomer. In fact, we launched Galaxy in India in 2021, a brand we are really excited about, given its global success.

In the pet food segment, our core brands are Whiskas and Pedigree. We also have Royal Canin, a veterinarian-approved nutrition brand for cats and dogs, as well as a recent acquisition called Tasty Bites. Today, about 80% of our products are manufactured in India and most of our sourcing is also done locally. We now have five factories in the country — three for the Mars Wrigley brand (confectionery), a pet nutrition factory in Hyderabad and the Tasty Bites factory in Pune.

Mars is a late entrant in India’s chocolate market, which is dominated by older players such as Cadbury. How do you plan to grow, given the tough competition?

We have respect for our competition, but also have our unique offerings in India that are well-positioned to serve local consumers. Also, we ensure our pricing is competitive.

Around 40% of our chocolates are priced at under 10. In gums and mints, over 80% of the portfolio is priced at below1. When you look at the confectionery category in India, very few competitors can offer the same quality and taste at affordable price points. We may have entered the market later than other players but we have a clear strategy —India is one of our key markets. We are here for the long haul. There is plenty of opportunity to penetrate and grow.

The average Indian consumes only 150 grams of chocolate per annum compared with more evolved markets, where the average annual consumption is between four and five kilos per person.

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