Mars makes nutrition top priority for pet brands

Mars Petcare is making health and nutrition the top priority for its Pedigree, Whiskas, Cesar and Sheba brands in an attempt to focus more on the emotional connection people feel towards their pets.

Mars is hoping upcoming Cesar activity will grow its health credentials

The company is hoping the plan will lead to advertising that stands apart from “stereotypical” pet food marketing, featuring dogs and cats “looking cute on screens”, to campaigns pet owners can truly relate to.

The shift has led to the return of Mars’ dog food Cesar brand to TV screens for the first time in five years as part of its biggest-ever campaign. It centres on the relationship between an old man and his dog, with the premium brand positioned as one of the ways an owner can repay a dog for their friendship. Additional in-store, sampling and online activity will promote how the food can improve a dog’s health.

The campaign runs throughout June alongside a revamped strategy for the Pedigree brand. The “Brighter Futures” push aims to drive awareness of the needs of rescue dogs and the role that healthy balanced meals play in their road to a new home. Pedigree has also pledged to donate 1 million meals to a network of animal shelters across the country as part of the multi-channel charge.

The flurry of activty is the result of a year-long refresh programme for the marketing of Mars’ pet brands, following the appointment of marketing director Miranda Sambles last April. Sambles says the business wants to re-establish itself “not just as leaders in scale but as thought leaders in the category”. Mars’ petcare brands have a 37.5 per cent share of the UK market, according to market research analysts IRI.

She adds: “Nutrition is what makes dogs and cats healthy and happy and that’s fundamental to every owner. We know more about [dog and cat] nutrition than any other company out there and have developed a strategy that helps establish that expertise in an accessible way for pet owners.”

Elsewhere, Mars is ramping up the marketing activity for its Whiskas and Sheba cat food brands to tap into shifting consumer trends towards healthier products for their pets. Several new products for both brands will be launched over the coming months.

Mars’ push will see its brands compete more directly with P&G’s Iams brand, which uses nutrition to differentiate itself from rivals. Earlier this year the business relaunched its Iams ProActive Health dog and cat food ranges to bolster its healthy nutrition positioning.