Being a dog owner and general animal lover – as well as a Global Account Manager for many of Mintel’s food and drink clients – I thought it a valuable use of my time to take a tour around the Mars Pet Nutrition Centre in Waltham on the Wolds (read, I wanted to stroke puppies and kittens). Mars pet brands include Pedigree Chum, Whiskas, Sheba, Chappie, Kitekat and Cesar; products I am sure you have seen if not bought in all major and independent retailers countrywide. The pet portfolio makes up 40% of Mars turnover in the UK, so extremely big business for them and therefore huge resources invested in their profit and growth.

On arrival at the centre, I was issued with a white lab coat and given strict instructions on how to behave with any animals I came into contact with. I should have mentioned to Adrian my guide, to relax, I work with the Mintel Food & Drink Sales Team. Adrian explained that the facility holds 300 cats and kittens and 150 dogs and puppies working with scientists researching products with improved nutrition, ‘helping pets live healthier and happier lives’! All well in theory but I was keen to see the conditions the animals were kept in and learn about what experiments were conducted on them. I needn’t have worried about the living conditions of the animals; the facility is huge and immaculate. There are outdoor play grounds with sensual learning areas for exploration, fun and exercise and spacious climate controlled indoor areas with cosy beds and toys to stimulate. Every dog is walked around the beautiful grounds daily and I saw lots of happy animals having contact with clearly caring staff.

Now for the science part…. The most intrusive procedure conducted at Waltham is taking blood samples. Where possible scientist use other methods for experimentation like invitro and follow a ‘caring science’ approach by using fewer animals and minimising the impact of trials. Some of the discoveries made by Mars Waltham are:

1975 – Determined the amino acid requirements of adult dogs

1982 – Defined healthy Taurine levels in cats

1995 – Developed the first diet to help control the formation of bladder stones in cats

1999 – Developed the only dog food supported by research data that uses green lipped mussel to maintain joint health

2000 – First demonstration of the effects of dietary antioxidants on puppy and kitten immune response

2005 – WALTHAM

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