COVID-19 has amplified every business’s strengths and weaknesses, from organizational models to Associate practices to company culture, societal health, and even family ties. For Mars, a global, family-owned business with more than a century of history-making diverse products and offering services for people and pets, it was no different. As the pandemic hit, Mars fast-tracked to areas that might sound familiar. We accelerated our listening capabilities with our consumers, ramped up investments in demand sensing and forecasting via artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in addition to traditional time series techniques, increased channel data, and analytics coverage to understand and act upon the massive channel shift underway, and continued investments in e-commerce analytics to learn which activities really drive ROI.

Our analytics journey gained momentum in the past two years. During this period, Mars consciously and consistently invested in building one of the best analytics team in the CPG industry. We realized early on, that hiring top talent and giving them the tools to succeed was just the first step. Great analytics teams are built around a culture that fosters collaboration, a problem-solving mindset, rapid experimentation, and non-zero-sum thinking. Therefore, the biggest changes that Mars made—and continues to do so— are in the areas of organizational design, incentive models for data engineers and data scientists, a culture of user-centricity, collaboration with other stakeholders and retailers (our customers), and an ethos of zero distance to consumers.

“Analytics is one of the important cogs in our Mars digital engine to help drive our digital transformation at 100x speed”

From an organizational design perspective, we are on a multi-year journey to implement a “form and federate” model for analytics talent where analytics capabilities are largely built in the center and federated within our large businesses of Confectionery, Food, and Petcare when ready. This model serves us well as it enables us to disseminate best practices, playbooks, and tools and keeps our talent pipeline world-class. We are currently in the process of developing a talent and organizational design playbook to make sure our businesses are well equipped to accept and provide a career path for analytics talent. We have also embarked on a massive effort to upskill our Associates by providing them access to training and tools that enable advanced data visualization and self-serve diagnostics. At last count, Mars had more than 20,000 Associates using our self-serve toolkits globally.

We are also working to articulate and codify Mars’ Code of Ethics for AI and machine learning. Mars Petcare owns many vet clinics, vet hospitals, Wisdom Panel, a DNA testing business, and Whistle, an Internet of Things (IOT) business. As we build direct to consumer relationships in this business, we have increasing access to Personally Identifiable Information of both pet parents and pets. As privileged custodians of this data, we are duty-bound to protect and, more importantly, ensure that this data is being used in a responsible and ethical manner. Our AI Code of Ethics is designed to operate in congruence with our corporate principles (The Five Principles) and provide additional guidance that must be adhered to and embedded in any AI-driven or AI-dependent initiative at Mars. Key tenets of our Code include values alignment, quality & privacy, responsibility, explainability, and mutuality.

Analytics is one of the important cogs in our Mars digital engine to help drive our digital transformation at 100x speed. I look forward to what our Associates will create in the coming years!