Big Interview: Paw patrol

Despite becoming a forgotten category in the wholesale sector, petcare holds a big opportunity for growth if approached in the right way – and as S&W Wholesale Marketing Director Julie Burden explains, that could be by simply working together

Julie Burden, S&W Wholesale

S&W has seen a 30% year-on-year growth with Mars Petcare in recent times. Is that down to the pandemic?

The pandemic has increased the number of pets within the UK and the number of owners, so there’s a growing opportunity. Prior to the pandemic, we’ve seen 30% year-on-year growth for this category.

Northern Ireland [where S&W is based] has always been fairly strong in the petcare category and, traditionally, overtrades with pets due to having the highest percentage of. dog owners in the UK.

Petcare is a very strong category in our symbol retail stores and having a strong relationship with Mars Petcare allows us to ensure we have the right range for our customers when they visit one of our stores.

Has the opportunity accelerated even further since the beginning of 2020, though?

Yes. The big thing is that more people are working from home, which means there are more feeding occasions and consumers are changing their shopping habits more towards multipack and premium ranges.

As a result, wet single-serve and treats categories are out-performing total pet food.

Mars Petcare has several big-name brands in its range, so is that part of what’s stimulating the growth S&W has seen?

There are some very recognisable brands within the Mars Petcare range with Whiskas, Pedigree and Cesar. Convenience consumers are brand-led, so they want and expect to find them in their convenience stores. These recognisable brands play into that trust and those bigger brands are then supported by advertising campaigns in the media.

The pandemic has changed the shopping habits of consumers, who are now going to their local convenience stores instead of out-of-town outlets and multiples.

This is reflected by us seeing more larger packs bought in smaller retailers. We expect to see that hold as we move out of the worst of the pandemic, as consumers get into the habit of going to their local stores to buy – resulting in repeat purchases.

With changing trends playing such a role in the category, how does the supplier-wholesaler relationship work to make sure your stock is on point for customers?

Annually, we work together on a strategy that takes into account both our own and our suppliers’ KPIs.

With Mars Petcare, it’ll share its plans for NPD and campaigns, then we align our print and digital campaigns accordingly.

We prioritise a core range of bestsellers to meet consumer needs and make the petcare category easy to navigate within the store. An example of this would be the current Dream Sixteen campaign, which highlights 16 of the best brands for convenience success.

We have to make sure we have the right range and the right promotions available throughout the year.

There is also a continuing need to deliver products at affordable prices, so Mars Petcare’s great range of price-marked packs offers reassurance of value and trust to the consumer.

How does Mars Petcare support this to deliver the plan?

It’s easy to work with Mars Petcare because it has a dedicated account manager and is able to provide us with the resources we need for both print and digital requirements, for example, online banners that we can advertise on our website, and inside our wholesale brochures and symbol bulletins.

Overall, Mars Petcare provides good variety, good range and availability, which are key to success in this category.


Mars Petcare is supporting wholesalers and retailers to capitalise on the growth in the petcare category seen during the Covid-19 pandemic with its Dream Sixteen campaign.

The initiative identifies the must-stocks that should form the core of a convenience retailer’s petcare offering and includes a series of price-marked packs and bestsellers from brands including Pedigree, Sheba and Cesar.

With 55% of pet owners previously stating they didn’t purchase in the channel due to lack of choice, the Dream Sixteen core range tackles this head-on to boost sales all the way up the supply chain.

Mars Petcare petcare S&W Wholesale