In September Mars Petcare US opened a new plant in Fort Smith, Arkansas, USA, that it says is the first sustainable petfood manufacturing facility in the world.
In the current economic environment, the opening of a new
manufacturing facility is worth celebrating. Add in that the
plant is located in the middle of the US (where manufacturing
has been steadily declining), it's received
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
(LEED) certification and it will manufacture a new but
already successful line of products, and you can understand why
Petcare US is proud.
But the driving force behind all this is something simple
yet fundamental to millions of people around the world: a
passion for pets, according to president Luc Mongeau. "We're
pet lovers," he says. "We're always working feverishly to
ensure that we leverage top-notch science and superior
nutrition knowledge to deliver amazing products and make the
world a better place for pets."
That phrase--"make the world a better place for pets"--is one
Mongeau uses often and represents the ultimate goal of all the
company's latest initiatives, including product innovation as
well as sustainability. "For us, it's about what we're doing
here with this facility, but it's as well taking the latest
knowledge to make sure we create products that will allow pet
owners to share more meaningful moments with their pets."
In just a year on the job (after stints in other divisions
such as Mars Canada Snackfood, Food and Petcare), Mongeau has
presided over much growth and change, capped off (for now) by
the opening of the new plant in Fort Smith, Arkansas, USA.
Environmentally friendly features such as water recycling,
energy reduction and protection against erosion and light
pollution earned the facility the LEED gold certification from
the US Green Building Council. Mars says the plant is the first
petfood manufacturing facility worldwide and the first building
in Arkansas to achieve such recognition.
"We're so excited about this plant, not only that it's
LEED-certified, but it's using resources much more
efficiently," Mongeau says. "This allows us in return to
deliver more value to the consumer, either with better products
or ones that are more affordable. Everybody wins in that
The 305,000-square-foot facility features a linear
production flow-ingredients come in one end, finished products
go out the other-and best-in-class equipment to maximize
efficiency, energy use and the 40 current employees. It
includes plenty of room to add to the two existing processing
lines and could eventually employ 200. (Read more about the
plant's "green" features in the December issue.)
Another major new development for Mars Petcare US is its
Center for Excellence, a multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art
R&D, testing and training facility added to the company's
plant in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. The center will soon
support all 20 Mars plants in the US and is key to the
company's efforts to continually improve the quality and safety
of its products.
Benches across the front of the new Arkansas plant display
what Mars defines as its five principles: quality,
responsibility, mutuality, efficiency and freedom. Mongeau says
quality is always first across all Mars US facilities. But he
also acknowledges a continual learning curve, and not just for
"The industry's changing extremely fast," he says.
"Manufacturers, customers, regulatory bodies are learning every
single day. In the last few years we've invested tens of
millions of dollars to ensure we've continually upgraded our
plants so we meet the latest food safety standards. And we're
doing a major investment in ensuring our quality and safety
teams are up to date on all the latest training. So somebody
joining Mars in safety will go through six weeks of training
before being deployed in the plant."
Luc Mongeau, president of Mars Petcare US, presents a donation to the Sebastian County (Arkansas) Humane Society.
Debra Fair, director of corporate affairs for Mars Petcare
US, adds that the Center for Excellence is set up to handle
much of that training, plus advanced training for Mars
associates, in addition to testing. "It's for quality testing,
laboratory testing, you name it," she says. For example, the
Cesar dog food produced in Arkansas will undergo extensive
safety testing at the center, according to plant manager Chris
"Quality is a big thing for the entire industry, a challenge
we're all facing together," Mongeau says. "As part of our
commitment to pets and pet owners, it is our highest pledge to
ensure we're delivering products that day in and day out they
can truly trust. Not only trust that we'll be delivering the
right nutrition but that they'll be safe."
The Arkansas plant will manufacture only the Cesar Canine
Cuisine brand of dog food, which recently expanded with new
Bistro Entrees. "These products are at the leading edge of
nutrition, leveraging the key trends right now," Mongeau says.
"We see the dog population moving to smaller breeds, and the
consumer recognizes Cesar as a brand that understands small
dogs, understands the relationship the owner has with a small
dog. Consumers trust Cesar to deliver top-notch nutrition with
the best ingredients, and Bistro just builds even more on that
with a humanlike product."
Fair adds that with the Bistro line, the packaging
innovation is just as important as the product. "The flex tray
is what Cesar is known for, and when you walk down that grocery
aisle, it's very prominent," she says. "It's putting it in a
package that consumers gravitate toward and makes their lives
easier as it relates to having those great feeding moments with
Mongeau agrees: "Our first principle of quality includes
packaging that delivers the freshest product out there so the
feeding experience is maximized. With Bistro the clear trays
really allow you to see the quality of ingredients. You see the
pasta, you see the vegetables, you see the chunks of meat and
the high quality of the gravy. It's such a logical extension of
the Cesar brand, and consumers really get it." He and Fair say
so far the Bistro line is doing very well in the
Desire to do better
Mars has also added to its Pedigree brand with the Pedigree+
line of wet products. "It's all about humanization," Mongeau
says. "Either it's about ingredients that look very much like
what pet owners eat or it's about capitalizing on human health
trends. For example, Pedigree+ adds glucosamine to improve
joint function as well as omega-3 fatty acids to deliver a
shinier skin and coat."
"Humanization often has to do with functional benefits,"
Fair adds. "Pedigree+ is the fastest spinning product in the
premium wet category because it's offering functional benefits
that people can relate to."
How do ideas for new Mars products originate? "We spent an
entire day recently doing an ideation session about what we can
bring out in the multiple categories that we're in," Mongeau
says. "We talk about humanization, but what's really important
for us is to be petcentric. If it doesn't make a difference in
the life of the pet, we will not do it. It's really important
for us to start with the pet."
That leads him back to the company's passion: "It's really
our love for pets, our desire to do better, combined with our
strong sense of responsibility for the environment. That's the
culmination of this plant opening, and we're very proud of
putting this facility on the ground, respecting the environment
and allowing us to produce more great product."
Frankin, Tennessee, USA
Luc Mongeau, president; Debra Crew, general manager, grocery store brands; Rena Crumplen, general manager, Mars Petcare Canada; Serge Duge, general manager, store brands; Debra Fair, director of corporate
approximately US$3 billion in 2008
Cesar, Pedigree, Whiskas, Goodlife Recipe
All of North America
20 across the US
It should come as no surprise that
employees at Mars Petcare US headquarters in Franklin,
Tennessee, USA, show their passion for pets by bringing
their four-legged companions to work. "Every day you live
and breathe it!" says Debra Fair, director of corporate
affairs. "You might have a conference call and you can hear
a couple dogs barking in the background."
According to president Luc Mongeau, the
company is so committed to that culture, they're working to
find a way to include cats. "We're a dog food and a cat
food company, so we really want to make sure we have cats
as well as dogs in the office," he says.
Employees at all company facilities
show their passion by holding pet adoption drives, such as
one in Columbus, Ohio, that led to nearly 200 adoptions.
Another in October at the headquarters involved seven
animal rescue organizations, Fair says, describing how Mars
associates volunteer to organize, publicize and operate the
drives. "They've become adoption ambassadors," she
In keeping with the company's support
of adoption, it donated US$5,000 to the
Sebastian County Humane Society
during the opening of its new plant in Fort Smith,
Arkansas, USA. (An additional US$5,000 donation went to the
Arkansas Earth Day Foundation.)
Where Nutro fits in
Mars Inc. bought
Nutro Products Inc.
in 2007 and moved its headquarters from California to
Franklin, Tennessee, USA (near Nashville), in 2008.
Franklin is also where Mars Petcare US is headquartered,
but the two US-based companies have separate buildings,
executives and management teams. "Nutro remains a totally
separate legal entity and operates as a subsidiary of Mars
Inc.," says Luc Mongeau, president of Mars Petcare US.
"Yes, we do collaborate when we see efficiencies and
synergies but really want each organization have its
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