Mars ITR pledges leadership credentials to drive category

By Luke Barras-hill |

MarsITRmainMars Wrigley Confectionery International Travel Retail (Mars ITR) is tackling travel retail’s shopper penetration to conversion challenge ‘head on’ as it seeks to set the pace for wider confectionery growth.

In a press conference held during the TFWA World Exhibition earlier this month, Mars ITR revealed plans to support its retail partners with the latest category insights, supported by new innovations centred on products, brands, packaging and campaigns.

Mars ITR General Manager Gary Clarke opened the session by outlining some important elements on the growth radar for Mars Wrigley Corporation.

The firm’s Sustainable in a Generation plan has committed US$1bn in investment over the next three years targeted around three areas: a healthy planet, thriving people and nourishing wellbeing.

Gary Clarke - Mars

Mars ITR General Manager Gary Clarke believes the travel retail confectionery category must unite to drive conversion and growth.


He also outlined the importance of Cocoa for Generations, the company’s sustainability model that aims to protect the extended supply chain.

Bringing together Mars and Wrigley in one business unit is another core focus, Clarke told members of the travel retail media.

“The industry continues to grow, but what we’re struggling to come to terms with, I believe, is the type of traveller and the spend that the traveller has,” he said.

“It’s our job, as a leader, to start to drive penetration. We’re taking the challenge front-on and starting to drive more conversion for the industry.

“We want to be the partner of choice; we have the right platform, total segments covered and the leading portfolio. When you get the right value and great brands working, travellers will pick up and we really want to contribute to the industry.”

Adding his thoughts, Raghav Rekhi, Category Director at Mars ITR said: “As travel numbers are increasing, confectionery sales are not keeping up. Our overarching objective is to drive conversion and drive growth of this category.

“The profile of the traveller is changing – it is far more middle class, it is no longer the remit of the privileged few; what we’re seeing is a democratisation of travel and more people travelling today than ever before.”

He admitted that the onset of low-cost travel is driving down dwell time at airports and as such, there is a correlation between the amount of time spent by travellers in retail environments and their propensity to purchase.


Raghav Rekhi, Category Director, Mars ITR.


In a presentation, Rekhi outlined how currently, global confectionery sales in travel retail amount to €3.3bn ($3.8bn), but claims there has been no growth across the category in the past 12 months.

“That is something that concerns us and we want to take a leadership role in changing that,” he stated, making a case for M&M’s as the key to unlocking conversion due to it doubling in size over the past five years.

TRBusiness asked Rekhi, who despite being in the travel retail division for a short period of time brings approximately 19 years’ experience with the corporation to his role, what learnings can be taken from the domestic market to jumpstart stagnant growth in confectionery travel retail?

He responded: “There are multiple layers to how we can use some of the insights and learnings that we have as a leader in the category in the domestic world to drive growth in travel retail. I think it’s about having a careful balance between where we are unique, and not.

“If I think about opportunities to drive growth it starts with the shopper. It is uncovering how the demographic profile and the shopper has changed compared to five or ten years ago. If I am honest, I think the travel retail industry has been slow. It has been slow in recognising that the change has been taking place and our offering needs to be balanced towards what that traveller is seeking.

“If we think about more value positioned offerings, the right brands for travellers… it will be a combination of those things, ensuring that we’re playing in the right price partitions to be able to appeal to them.

“Other areas that are simple wins are identifying occasions that are more meaningful to travellers. Seasonals are just one of those simple examples that recognises that there are [for example] occasions relevant to the Middle East traveller – Eid; Ramadan and Divali for the Indians; Chinese New year for the Chinese…. How do we leverage those opportunities with the right product offering to meet a traveller need? What we’ve shared with our customers has been very well received.”

During the press briefing, Mars ITR introduced its latest wave of products that fulfil what the company views as key shopper need states: ‘Connect’ and ‘Celebrate’, which account for 90% of sales, and ‘Refresh’ and ‘Reward’.


Galaxy Casket promotions featured prominently at key airports throughout the Middle East, including Dubai (pictured), in celebration of Eid earlier this year.

The company maintains that while gifting is prominent in travel retail, it is important to deliver across all travellers’ need states.

“Connecting with others is a key reason for purchase and M&M’s is perfect for meeting this need for travellers of all age groups and demographics – it’s one of the reasons why it’s a winning local brand,” said Rekhi.

“At the same time, the diversity of our portfolio means that we can also meet the requirement for Celebration (gifting) Refresh and Reward (personal enjoyment), enabling us to create experiences in store will truly engage with travellers in a fun, exciting – and most importantly – relevant way.”

Spearheaded by M&M’s, the Connect line boasts M&M’s Salted Caramel 370g Sharing Pouch – a travel retail exclusive. The limited edition is available in Asia Pacific, South America, Europe and the Middle East and is designed to meet growing demand for sharing formats.

Salted Caramel, which features soft and creamy caramel with a twist of salt coated in a crunchy candy hard shell, capitalises on the success of Crunchy Caramel.

Another travel retail exclusive, the M&M’s Mix 400g Sharing Pouch, combines chocolate, peanut and crispy flavours in a versatile, sharing mix, available in Asia Pacific, South America, Europe and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Skittles Tropical Fruit Mix Pouch 400g Limited Edition fuses pineapple, watermelon, orange, tropical punch and passion fruit flavours in a sky blue pouch. It is available for a short period in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.


M&M’s will play a critical role in Mars ITR’s 2019 roadmap.


In Celebrate, Mars has updated its gifting range to play on the universal appeal for M&M’s.

M&M’s now features four designs: Fan, Torch, Flip and Funnel, all featuring the iconic Red and Yellow characters and exclusive to travel retail.

Fan adds a new design to an old classic and previous top-seller in the low-price gifting segment. A bright coloured fan offers a cooling sensation and contains a 20g bag of M&M’s chocolate inside.

Torch, described as ‘perfect for every day gifting’, illuminates dark spaces and also contains a 20g bag of M&M’s inside.

As a new take on the popular M&M’s dispenser in Red and Yellow characters, Flip releases M&M’s chocolate lentils in one swift turn, with each including 45g of M&M’s.

Funnel is another version of the dispenser format and is ideal for all flavours: peanut, chocolate and crispy. Equipped with a 45g bag of M&M’s, Funnel is ideal to share with friends, family and co-workers.


In a seasonal twist, M&M’s Christmas and Easter Tins add gloss to important festive periods, while the M&M’s Mini Tube offers a price-sensitive 49g gifting option, available in the US.

Finally, Recharge aims to attract new users into the category to generate incremental growth.

This is achieved by adding the strawberry flavour via the Extra Strawberry 10-pack.Skittles

Supporting the sku is a new creative advertising campaign, ‘Who Would You Share Yours With?’ that focuses on Connect, encouraging travellers to grasp the confectionery sharing opportunity at all stages of their journey.

This is set to roll out at key airports in novel and dynamic ways that support the brand architecture.

“We know why travellers shop and one of the key reasons is to connect to others,” continued Rekhi. “This happens during screen time, or waiting time, for instance. Our campaign targets these ‘me moments’ at the heart of the travel experience.”

More generally, Mars ITR has unveiled redesigned packaging and updated logos across its portfolio (M&M’s, Mars, Snickers, Maltesers and Celebrations) to signify the importance of travel retail.

It concludes that its portfolio places it ‘firmly in the driving seat of total confectionery growth within global travel retail’.

Moving forward, the confectioner pinpoints disruptive retailing displays and merchandising techniques, promotions and maximising sales opportunities from the shop floor to the checkout as fundamental to its growth trajectory.



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