Mars Petcare plans to open pet food research center in Ulyanovsk, Russia, reported Pets International. Alexander Zobkov, corporate relations manager at Mars, announced the news. According to Zobkov, the project will cost 782 million rubles (US$13.7 million).

Mars Petcare’s research center will use 260 cats and 100 dogs from certain Russian shelters that Mars works with. Studies will deal with nutrition and pet food palatability, and will gather information for preparing pet food.

The Ulyanovsk research center will be the fourth Mars pet food research center and the first in Russia. Another pet food research center operates in the US and two in Europe.

Mars owns nine factories in Russia, including two in Ulyanovsk that employ 600 people. In Russia, Mars Petcare produces Pedigree, Whiskas, Kitekat, Chappi, Sheba, Perfectfit, Royal Canin.

Russian pet food producers aim to increase market share

Since the crash of socialism and the opening of borders for free trade the Russian pet food market has been strongly dominated by international companies. According to data from Russia’s Association of Pet Food Producers, international pet food companies own an 80­–85 percent share in total pet food sales. However, the situation may change in the coming years under the influence of a changing market, reported Petfood Industry.

Domestic pet food companies in Russia can now successfully compete with foreign producers in terms of product composition, according to Dmitry Trukhanov, brand manager of R-Trade, a Moscow-based manufacturer of pet food. In the last couple of decades, he said, Russian companies have obtained market experience and have good formulas, even operating in the budget market segment.