Mars CEO Grant Reid has seen Mars, Inc. undergo massive changes over his three decades at the company. Since becoming the CEO of Mars in 2014, Reid has ushered in a new era of digital innovation and growth. Reid recently sat down with Business Insider to discuss Mars' evolution, Gen Z, sustainability, and more. Sign up for Business Insider's retail newsletter, The Drive-Thru, to get more stories like this in your inbox. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
With three decades of experience at Mars, CEO Grant Reid has seen the company undergo a massive transformation. "Everything ... from in the factory all the way through to e-commerce and everything in between, is radically different from when I started," Reid recently told Business Insider in a sit-down interview. Since becoming the CEO of Mars in 2014, Reid has ushered in a new era at Mars. After more than a century in which the $35 billion company, in Reid's words, "let our brands do the talking," Mars is finally opening up. Reid recently sat down with Business Insider to discuss the transformation of Mars, known for its iconic candy brands such as M&M, Snickers, and Skittles, as well as its petcare business that spans from dog food to medical care. "I think you would see us with a broader footprint" in 10 years, Reid said. "But I think, most importantly ... it's more about, 'What's the world were creating tomorrow by the way that we do business today?'" Read the full transcript here: Grant F. Reid: Mars has been a family-held company for over 100 years, mostly known for its confectionary products, so Snickers, Skittles, Starburst, Twix, all the names that you would hopefully have eaten when you were younger. And then, also, a lot of people don't know we've been in pet food since the 1930s. So, Sheba, Whiskas, Pedigree. What we've done in the last few years is we expanded that portfolio, so we have a partnership with Kind, which is a nut-based product with real food. And we've also extended into the pet-care area with a number of acquisitions as well as organic moves, the best-known being the vet health services area with VCA. Banfield we already had. So, we've evolved the portfolio to keep up with the consumer and move with the times. Kate Taylor: And I know with that comes a ton of growth and a lot of ideas for growth in the future. What does the game plan look like to kind of make this massive growth happen? Reid: As you know, in the last, let's say since 2014, I think the CPG industry generally has been growth-challenged to some extent, and I think we identified fairly early on that there was opportunities to grow even more in some of the adjacent areas, and that's why we made the moves we made, because the consumer is shifting, the consumer is changing. Both millennials and Gen Zs are looking for something slightly different, and part of our five principles is the consumer is our boss, under the quality principle, and we've got to move where the consumer is. Taylor: With Gen Z changing, how are they changing? What changes are you seeing? Reid: Yeah, so, I've got two Gen Zs myself, so Gen Z's what, 1995 to now? So I've got Cameron and Charlotte, so I either know a lot about Gen Zs or very little, they would probably say. But I think some of the big differences are they're looking for more transparency, they're looking for healthier options, they're looking for a more holistic, perhaps immersive experience with data, as well. And, fundamentally, some of the things that they're doing, they're buying fewer cars, they're buying much, much fewer houses. So we see that as an opportunity to keep innovating within our core products, but also to add other products so they'll be interested in the future. Taylor: When we're thinking about what Gen Z wants and why they want these things, especially thinking about sustainability, why is this generation so engaged in this area, do you think? Reid: I think they grew up in a different time, you know. I grew up, there was, I hate to say, there was no cellphones, there was no iPads. They're growing up in a technologically advanced age; they're growing up with a much broader perspective on the world than certainly I had. And with that, they're looking for new experiences, and they're really seeking that transparency and clarity of: Where do the products come from? You know, are these products sustainable? What are they doing for the planet? How robust are they? They're asking all those questions. Taylor: And it's interesting because, obviously, there's such a wide range of brands that Mars represents. Thinking about some of the more, brands that have been around for longer, how do you apply these new learnings and make kind of iconic brands that, M&M's, for example, that have been around for so long, and make them relevant to Gen Z and other consumers today? Reid: Yeah, that's a great question. So, traditionally, you know, the route to market for M&M's would be your traditional stores, and now, with digital commerce, it's a new avenue, new opportunity, so what we're doing is using social media to interact with the consumer in a much different way. We're often, right here in Times Square you know, you've got the M&M's store, you can go and have a full, immersive experience. You can now have M&M's with your face on them, which I had last week. It was pretty good, actually. So you can have all different types of things, it's not just the standard M&M's, and I think that's gonna keep evolving as you have, I think, a closer interaction with the consumer than perhaps you can do when, you know, they're buying from a store, you don't know who's buying. With these interactions, you know who's buying, you know what they're interested in, you can actually start a dialogue, a much deeper emotional connection with the consumer, which is fantastic with a brand like M&M's, and, similarly, with some of the new brands, you have an opportunity to do that as well. Taylor: Sustainability has been a huge topic, and Mars has made some big promises on sustainability. How was being a private company able to empower you to kind of make these big commitments when it comes to sustainability? Reid: Yeah. That's a great question. You know, I would say it was fundamental because we have family ownership, we have family members who are passionate in this space. In fact, in 1947, so before this was even fashionable, one of our owners wrote a letter to everybody in the company. And it actually said that our role is much bigger than just making profit; it's about how you do you deal with all your stakeholders all the way through the value chain. So it's in our DNA, it's something we're very proud of, it's something we've always done, but it's been relatively low-key. For the first 100 years, we let our brands do the talking. Everybody knew M&M's, everybody knew Pedigree, everybody knew Twix, everybody knew Uncle Ben's, but not so much about, I think, the DNA of the company itself. And things have changed now in building that reputation, so we've said, we've put $1 billion into sustainable energy generation, and we're fully committed, the family's behind it, and we didn't have to convince a financial analyst that it was a good idea, we just had the trust and the support of our family, and it allowed us to make those generational decisions. Taylor: Do you think that other companies could be doing more on this topic? Reid: We could all be doing more, honestly, ourselves included, but there are some, you know, there's a lot of really good work out there, and we're not doing it all ourselves. We're doing a lot ourselves, but we're also trying to build a coalition for change. Trying to create an entity that's bigger than any one company, and we're doing that in conjunction with companies, and we're doing it in conjunction with NGOs and governments to really create that catalyst for change, which will benefit everyone. Taylor: Gen Z, obviously, sustainability is a huge issue for them. How does that kind of connect to what Mars is focusing on, when it comes to sustainability? Reid: Yeah, so, again, Gen Z's looking for a number of things. First of all, to attract them to your brands, to attract them to your company, to get them to stay, you've got to have a higher-order purpose. And that's where, "The world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today." I think is such a great calling. And then you superimpose the individual areas, like, "Creating a better world for pets," or, "Better food today for a better world tomorrow," from the different segments, that's a big attraction. Then, I think the brands themselves you know, are really very powerful for Gen Z, but what we have been trying to do is, the data is pretty clear, it says Gen Z's looking for more transparency, they're looking to see what is it you're doing with your brands and your company that's really good for the environment, and how can I be part of that? Taylor: Looking over the past 30 years, what has been the biggest change at Mars that you've seen happen? Reid: I would say that the most recent changes in digital. I think that the pace of change in digital in the last two or three years has been phenomenal, and keeping pace with that is not easy, but it does create amazing opportunities as well. Everything, as I said, from in the factory all the way through to e-commerce and everything in between, is radically different from when I started. Taylor: And do you think that people's vision of Mars and their understanding of Mars' identity has changed over the last decades as well? Reid: Yes, I think so, because, you know, as I said, the first 100 years, we let our brands do the talking. It's only in the last few years that I think we've come out to talk about the type of company we are, what we stand for, what we're trying to achieve, and I'm a great believer, if you can build a fast-growing, dynamic company that embraces change and you're doing something that's not just about financial performance but also about what you're putting back into the ecosystem in which you operate, then that's a beautiful thing, and that would be a great legacy to leave behind. Taylor: What have been some of the biggest trends that you're seeing now that Mars is tapping into? Reid: Yeah, so, I think there's a few trends. First is, obviously, with I think a greater realization about obesity and a greater realization of sugar intake, people are looking for a more balanced approach. Now, we've always been advocates of little treats. So, we've seen the opportunity to portion control, smaller portions, changing some of the ingredients from saturated fats to nonsaturated fats is one. Then I think there's been an increase in the premiumization. People are looking for more of an experience, and so we're providing that through things like our M&M's stores, through our My M&M's, as I mentioned earlier, that you can have your name or the face for a wedding, for whatever. So we're seeing some big, big changes there. But also in the way that they communicate with the brands, and some of the things we've done are pretty amazing. With Snickers brand online, using, "You're not you when you're hungry," has really resonated with those younger consumers. Taylor: If I'm interviewing you in 10 years, what do you think the biggest changes will be at Mars? Reid: I think that's a great question. I think you would see us expanding into even more geographic territories, so we have opportunities in places like Africa and Indonesia to increase our footprint. I think you would see us moving into even more food-based areas, to be defined. So I think you would see us with a broader footprint. But I think, most importantly, it goes back to what I said earlier, it's about, more about, what's the world were creating tomorrow by the way that we do business today. How are we creating a dynamic, vibrant company that attracts the best talent that allows us to do the best for the stakeholders which we work with.SEE ALSO: Why Beyond Meat's CEO is telling investors the company will become the Amazon or Tesla of the $1.4 trillion meat industry Join the conversation about this story »