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Mars China teams with Alibaba

Mars, best known for M&M’s and Snickers candy brands, has become the latest global consumer foods brand to partner with eCommerce giant Alibaba to grow its online presence in China.

In a joint announcement, Mars China said all of its brands, which also include Dove chocolate and Pedigree and Royal Canin pet foods, will now be available to consumers through Alibaba’s online marketplaces Tmall.com and Rural Taobao. The Virginia-based company added it would leverage Alibaba’s marketing and data capabilities to drive engagement with those consumers, while using Alibaba’s logistics network to extend its reach in the Chinese market.

Food and beverage giants Mondelēz International and Nestle struck similar agreements with Alibaba in recent months in a bid to expand their business in China. Both companies pointed to eCommerce as an important sales channel in the market given that Chinese consumers are the world’s most prolific online shoppers. And according to market intelligence firm Kantar Health, eCommerce sales of fast-moving consumer goods are growing in China, climbing 37 per cent last year versus 34 per cent in 2013-2014.

Wrigley China VP and MD Cecilia Li noted the importance of eCommerce in the Mars China strategy as well, but also emphasised the role that shoppers under 35 are playing in the country’s consumer economy.

“China’s younger generation is the new driving force of consumption,” she said, and “they rely on eCommerce.” Li called the agreement with Alibaba a “significant strategic partnership for Mars.”

Many of Mars’ products are already selling on Tmall. Wrigley opened its flagship store in 2009, and others have since followed. But the company said that in addition to now having access to all of Mars China’s products, the new tie-up will give consumers a “convenient and international ‘one-stop’ shopping experience” via Alibaba’s platforms. That includes consumers in the rural countryside, whose rising spending power has drawn the attention of companies doing business in China.

Alibaba will also partner with Mars’ Beijing-based Global Food Safety Center “to enhance food safety management, promote consumer education and share the latest scientific research findings with industry stakeholders.” Launched last year, the center conducts food safety research and training.

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