That changed last year when Tucker Carlson, the Fox News anchor with a large following among Republicans, began attacking as “woke” the cartoon characters with which Mars advertised its M&M’s candies.
Mr Weihrauch suggested that the attention had boosted the brand, noting that a Super Bowl ad campaign that played on the controversy had generated 25 billion online impressions. “There’s lots of sales and it’s difficult to keep up with the orders,” he added.
Politicians needed to “step in and take more responsibility” in areas such as providing recycling systems while maintaining a dialogue with “good big businesses that want to drive change,” Mr Weihrauch argued.
Mars intended to more than double its spending on a sustainability agenda spanning greenhouse gases, packaging and its supply chain, he disclosed, from $US1.1 billion over the past three years to $US2.7 billion over the next three.
Last March Mars said it would scale back its business in Russia to focus on its “essential role in feeding the Russian people and pets”. Mr Weihrauch defended the decision to keep some operations, saying it wanted to protect its 6000 staff in Russia but had stopped “hundreds of millions” of dollars of exports and donated all $US12 million in profits from the country to humanitarian causes.
The former head of Mars’ petcare division said it was looking to both organic growth and acquisitions to double sales from last year’s $US45 billion to a level between the $US80 billion revenues Procter & Gamble reported in 2022 and Nestlé’s $US102 billion sales.
With stable family ownership and a “very solid” balance sheet, he said, more potential sellers were seeing Mars as “a safe haven” in a high-inflation, high-rate economy where private equity and venture capital groups had been less competitive.
Mars bought VCA, an operator of veterinary clinics, for $US9.1 billion in 2017 and acquired Wrigley’s chewing gum for $US23 billion in 2008, but its recent purchases have been smaller. Late last year it bought Canada’s Champion Petfoods and Trü Frü, a fruit-based snacking brand, for undisclosed sums.
Mr Weihrauch said the group, which has 140,000 employees, was seeing “surprisingly good” growth everywhere except Europe, which had been “pretty hard hit”.