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Supplier Diversity

Mars embraces the power of supplier diversity

This company seeks a variety of diverse suppliers who bring value and offer business solutions, and challenges its partners to support their communities by doing the same


Mars, Inc has come a long way since the first of the company’s candies were made in Frank C. Mars’s kitchen in 1911. Today, Mars (McLean, VA) is a $33 billion corporation with brands including not only its signature chocolates like M&Ms;, Snickers and Twix, but also pet care products (Pedigree, Whiskas), food (Uncle Ben’s, Dolmio), drinks (Flavia), Wrigley gums and other confectionaries, and Symbioscience, its global health and life sciences segment.

“Mars Chocolate North America recognizes the importance and contributions of businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans, service-disabled veterans, as well as small businesses, small disadvantaged businesses, and HUBZone business concerns,” says Itu Otu, manager of supplier diversity.

“Minority business enterprises contribute to the economies of the nation, the states and communities they serve, and to our business success. Our supplier diversity mission is to create an optimal business environment for the inclusion and integration of diverse suppliers into our supply chain network, guided by our five principles: quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency and freedom.”

Tier 2 diversity is a key initiative
The inclusion of diverse suppliers in the overall sourcing strategy is important to Mars, Otu says. “Supplier diversity provides us with diverse business solutions, competitive pricing benefits, and diverse products and services, resulting in an improved competitive business advantage as well as an opportunity to deliver value to our customers and consumers.”

A key goal of the Mars supplier diversity program is to ensure that leaders on its procurement team understand the business case for engaging diverse suppliers and the competitive advantage that a robust supplier diversity process brings to the organization, Otu explains.

“We ask our procurement leaders to actively seek out qualified diverse suppliers capable of providing competitive and high-quality products and services,” Otu notes. “We also ask that they work with our suppliers to support Mars’s second tier procurement initiative, which encourages the development of diverse suppliers through mentoring and other outreach activities.”

Consistent growth means increased opportunities
Another goal of the supplier diversity program is to build a supply chain that’s reflective of the company’s diverse consumer base, according to Otu. “Over the decade since we launched our supplier diversity efforts, we have consistently grown the program by an annual rate of nine percent. We have engaged several hundred diverse suppliers in almost every aspect of our business, including ingredients, packaging and services.”

The tier 2 procurement initiative also has experienced strong growth, Otu notes. “We successfully encouraged thirty-five of our suppliers to establish supplier diversity programs in support of our initiative. These efforts have led to increased business opportunities for diverse suppliers.”

A case study in mutual benefit
Although the Mars supplier diversity program has had many success stories in the company’s various buying categories, Otu points to one that stands out: the strategic alliance between a major energy provider and a diverse supplier to service a Mars plant.

“This alliance came about as part of a supplier diversity capacity building initiative. There was anxiety initially on both sides of the aisle, but with the right structure and strong support, it became a success. Great credit is due to both suppliers for their resourcefulness and commitment to this relationship,” he adds. “After four years, the diverse supplier continues to service the plant without a hitch, and our plant enjoys a constant supply of energy. We would like to see similar alliances in other categories where it makes business sense.”

Advice and direction
Status as a diverse supplier alone is not enough to get a business through the door, Otu notes. The supplier must also be able to demonstrate the ability to create value. He advises prospective diverse suppliers to research both the company and the industry.

“Our procurement representatives are more receptive to suppliers offering solutions than suppliers who just want to talk about who they are,” he points out. “Our diverse suppliers compete on a level playing field with majority-owned suppliers. We expect them to be creative, innovative solutions providers, and to be able to deliver on our specifications at a competitive price.”

Mars also asks diverse suppliers to take advantage of the services offered through affinity and advocacy organizations such as the National Minority Supplier Development Council, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, the United States Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, and the Small Business Administration.

“We partner with these organizations to find certified and capable diverse suppliers. We participate in their networking sessions, have access to their databases, attend their business expos and accept their certifications,” Otu adds.

To discuss offerings and capabilities, contractors can contact the Mars supplier diversity office at (908) 813-4514, e-mail their capability statement to supplierdiversity@mars.com, or register their business at mars.com/supplierdiversity.


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