Mars Food has appointed PepsiCo veteran Rafael Narvaez as its global chief marketing, research and development officer as it looks to drive growth for brands like Uncle Ben’s and Dolmio.
Until recently, Narvaez was vice-president, marketing and transformation for PepsiCo’s global foods group, where he oversaw the success of names like Lays, Doritos and Cheetos.
In his new role, Mars has tasked him to take a “strategic approach” to brands marketing, innovation, digital, R&D and consumer insights for its “dinnertime" portfolio.
Based in London, he will replace Clarence Mak who held the slightly different position of global chief marketing, sales and innovation officer for the food division. Mak has stayed with the business, taking on the remit of president for Mars Wrigley in China.
Commenting on the appointment, Narvaez’s senior Fiona Dawson, global president of multisales and global customers at Mars Food, said “Rafael has a track record of delivering strong growth and brings a wealth of knowledge about the food industry.
“I am delighted that he will bring his bold thinking, leadership and rigorous focus to Mars Food so we can help billions of consumers around the world enjoy healthier food at the dinner table.”
As consumers move towards healthier lifestyles, Mars has pivoted to marketing and labelling cupboard staples like Dolmio sauce as products that should only be enjoyed “occasionally” to maintain a balanced diet, due to high levels of sugar and salt.
The company has also unveiled healthier versions of products like Uncle Ben's rice, and low-sugar sauce variants to cater to shoppers.
The scheme is part of a larger initiative by the FMCG business to encourage healthier eating at a time when large food multinationals, or ‘Big Food’ has been coming under pressure from public health advocates and regulators struggling to fight a growing obesity epidemic.
This plan doesn’t extend to Mars’ chocolate or sweets business (which includes its flagship brand, along with Maltesers and Starburst). However, Mars has highlighted Narvaez’s experience in addressing “new consumer needs in high pressure and volatile environments through driving a strong marketing and innovation agenda, digital transformation, global agency management and marketing capability development," as a coup for its main meal brands.
Privately owned Mars, which also produces pet care products, has undergone several changes within its marketing department over the past 18 months.
In June 2018, Mars chief marketing and customer officer Andrew Clarke took on the role of global president of Mars Wrigley confectionary. It replaced this wider chief marketing officer role with a chief growth officer in the form of Berta de Pablos following Clarke’s promotion.
Months prior, the business promoted Michelle Oliver to the newly-created role of global corporate brand and purpose director.
In the same year, the business brought marketing and sales closer together to improve effectiveness and measure how its investments were driving real sales uplift.