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‘Purpose-driven’ Mars Wrigley Touts Innovation, Choices

Mike Gilroy shows Almost Champions ring
Mike Gilroy with Mars Wrigley shows the "Almost Champions" ring the company presented to the losing team of the Big Game.

Last updated on May 20th, 2024 at 01:10 pm

Mars Wrigley is “laser focused” on launching new innovations to provide customers with new experiences.

That was the word from Mike Gilroy, the company’s VP of trade relations and sponsorship activation, who spoke with The Shelby Report during the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Indianapolis, discussing innovation within the category and where the brand plans to go next.

“We make all of our decisions [at Mars]. We wake up and think about our five principles – responsibility, mutuality, quality, efficiency and freedom – all the time,” Gilroy said. “That’s how we operate as a business overall – very purpose driven.

“At the Mars Inc. level, we have a purpose: the world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today. For Mars Wrigley, what that means is we’re working hard every day to create a world that’s more connected, more caring and more celebratory.” Mars Wrigley booth at Sweets and Snacks Expo

Mars relies on consumer data and insights to understand what people are buying, why they’re buying it and how they buy it. Gilroy highlighted the appeal of Gen Z as a cohort due to its “tremendous” buying power, driven by experiences of taste, texture, format and authenticity.

Mars Wrigley attended the expo, which ran May 14-16 at the Indiana Convention Center, to highlight the multiple ways the brand achieves purpose, reaching the consumer at every key moment. The brand’s booth highlighted several trends and flavors emerging in the market.

Peanut butter

Mars Wrigley showcased its new peanut butter M&M’s and Skittles Littles, touting the many ways they can be found on shelves in varying sizes, from bags and pouches to tubes.

Gilroy shared that the tubes in particular play into the theme of reaching Gen Z through the “fun play” design, in addition to its recyclability.

Also, peanut butter is continuing to grow as “the No. 1 flavor partition when it comes to chocolate.”

Gilroy noted that five of the finalists for the Most Innovative New Product Awards were peanut butter-flavored products, as were three of the winners, including Best in Show. 

“You can see [looking at our booth] that there’s a lot of peanut butter around. The campaign was definitely focusing in on our peanut butter brands,” Gilroy said. “There’s a lot of great opportunities within peanut butter as a platform for the category.”

One such opportunity was a Big Game commercial, presenting the M&M’s Peanut Butter “Almost Champions” ring to the non-champions. This ring and the overall commercial leans into M&M’s purpose of “creating a world in which everybody feels like they belong.”

“When you think about the almost champions and when you think about M&M’S and the fun that [the brand] brings to the table, it’s a fun way to poke fun at the fact that most of us will not be able to achieve that,” Gilroy said. “This campaign really leans into that idea…how do you provide [the Almost Champions] comfort?”


Another area where Mars sees potential is the “resilience” of gummies. 

“We’ve been in gummies a long time – well over a decade – starting with Lifesaver Gummies. Then, we launched Skittles gummies not too long ago, and they’ve been incredibly successful.”

At the show, Mars also promoted its Starburst gummies, offering free samples as there’s a “big demographic that are diving into gummies as an alternative to chocolate.”

Starburst gummies come in three flavors – Original, All Pink and Sour – at retailers across the country.

Mars is most excited about the path forward for the gummy category, as “its a go-to treat for the last two big generations – Gen Z and Millennials.” 

“We know that there’s a lot of runway to move,” Gilroy added.


The gum category has rebounded “in a big, big way” since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Gilroy. 

“We were excited [by the Most Innovative New Product Awards] because Hubba Bubba Mini Gum utilizing Skittles’ five fruit flavors was the winner in the gum and mint’s category,” he said.

“We’re incredibly excited about this, in particular, as the global leader in gum and the leader certainly here in the market with respect to gum.”

Mars Wrigley recently launched Orbit White Sweet Mint, an “extension of an already successful lineup that features spearmint and peppermint” gum.

The company brings emotions and experiences into the category by focusing on elements such as nostalgia, play value, trusted brands and mini size. 

In addition, the brand is hoping new innovations will highlight that gum is for more than just breath freshening, it can help with focus as well as breaking monotony.

Ice cream

Ice cream  is “continuing to reach new heights,” per Gilroy.

Sources told Mars that the category is expected to clear more than $100 billion globally by 2029.

“We have an aspiration to become a billion dollar branded company in the ice cream space. And we feel very bullish about that ambition, largely because we’re riding on the backs of our strong brands,” Gilroy shared.

Within convenience stores, Snickers is the No. 1 ice cream bar and Twix is second, while M&M’s ice cream sandwiches are among the leaders in that space and KIND frozen treats are the top non-dairy treat.

“Our brands, combined with the significant growth that’s going on in ice cream, that’s one [area] that we should be able to realize…we’re incredibly optimistic,” Gilroy shared.


Another area the company is particularly proud of is its partnerships with retailers and foodservice providers.

“One partnership that I always think about when I think about our foodservice is the [McDonald’s] McFlurry. We’ve had M&M’s in the McFlurries for over 25 years now,” Gilroy said.

“There’s been a real boom of foodservice in convenience stores and this provides us another way to engage with retailers to help them differentiate their offerings…and helps us differentiate beyond the traditional sort of package.”


“Seasonal isn’t just about the seasons anymore; people are celebrating all kinds of things…It’s all about bringing confectionery into those celebratory moments that people want to smile and celebrate with friends and family,” Gilroy explained.

Mars also has discovered from its data and insights that variety packs are important. The brand has redesigned them to appeal to all customers, from a single-size, “treat yourself” bag to oversized family bags.

In addition, consumers have more choices, such as fruity snack-only bags, non-nut bags, combo bags and chocolate-only bags. 

“What we know at Halloween time is that piece count becomes incredibly important,” Gilroy added. 

“What you’ll see is piece count really called out on the Halloween bags, but may not be as clearly called out on the everyday variety of bags.”

The Mars team has recently reformulated the shapes of its single and share-size candies, featuring hearts for Valentine’s, egg shapes for Easter and pumpkins for Halloween.

“We’re excited that our reformulated shapes really deliver on the key shapes that embody the seasons,” Gilroy said.

Read more snacks news from The Shelby Report.

About the author

Sommer Stockton

Web Editor

Sommer joined The Shelby Report in January 2022 after graduating from Brenau University in Gainesville, GA with a B.A. and M.A. in Communications and Media Studies. Sommer is excited to learn about the grocery industry and share her findings with The Shelby Report's readers!

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