Willy Wonka of Dog World Invites Us Inside

MARS petcare

Remember that scene in Willy Wonka when all the kids waited outside the gate and Willy Wonka allowed them inside the magic castle of sweetness? We got invited inside the home of Willy Wonka of the dog world!

The Franklin, Tennessee based Mars Petcare company officially opened its $110 million Global Innovation Center in October of 2014. While attending the BlogPaws Conference in Nashville recently, Fidose of Reality received a special invitation to go behind the “green curtain” and into the hub of this global leader in pet care and nutrition.

Since our blog is REALITY based, here’s a play by play of what we learned, insider pictures, and a look into what very few get to see: A peek inside the $110 million Global Innovation Center, marking the sixth Mars site in Tennessee and will employ more than 140 Associates. The center focuses on dry cat and dog food in both the natural and mainstream pet food categories.

riding mars petcare bus
Traveling to the Mars Petcare Global Innovation Center

Sensory Indulgence

The folks at Mars Petcare believe in five principles that keep them true to themselves and the pets they care about and for: Ours! I was intrigued by this as we entered the epicenter of all things Mars. These principles are quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency, and freedom. A few of those principles made me wonder: I mean, how many companies say “freedom” or “mutuality” are one of their driving principles? In true journalistic fashion, I asked. Keep reading.

Mars principles

Dentastix

These products are designed to keep a dog’s teeth clean. I give Dexter a new Dentastix once a week. We brush his teeth daily, and this is what needs to occur for dogs to have a healthy mouth. An actual 3D printer is responsible for the design of this X-shaped dental treat. Here’s Dr. Tiffany Bierer, Health and Nutritional Sciences Manager, Mars Petcare US, explaining what DentaStix and the mint variation is all about: 

 On-Site Amazing Dogs and Cats

Mars Petcare actually employs canine and feline petcare associates in the Global Innovation Center. Pets remain on premises for 2 to 4 years and are treated like royalty. Some of us, present company included, joked that we want to come back in our next lifetime as a Mars Petcare associate dog! The dogs thrive in the center, are trained, loved, paired in groups of two (the dogs), and help provide valuable taste tester information to the Research and Development team. Cameras were not allowed in the center, but I was there and can tell you these dogs and cats are so very loved and cared for on site.

Eighty percent of the pets come from local shelters and the goal is to have 300 pets in house, with 120 there as of this writing. You know the food and treats that your dogs and cats eat? These dogs taste test and help R&D develop the formulas and flavors upon which your dogs and cats dine.

Dogs are fed separately and have access to brain games, puzzles, training, play time, and have a life of luxury and fun! By the way, all dogs undergo DNA testing using the Wisdom Panel 3.0 testing…and Fidose is doing a DNA test on one of our friend’s dogs to determine her true canine lineage. Knowing what breeds comprise a dog help trainers and pet parents with diseases, breed specifics, and more. When you know what a dog’s DNA is made of, you can better understand a dog’s unique appearance, behaviors, and wellness needs.

I did get to meet this adorable dog and cat, who are both rescues, and yes, I fell in love:

mars petcare cat
Adorbs, right?
mars pets
Snuggle time for me!

Greenies

The new Greenies® formula means that they are easy to digest and highly soluble (that means that they break down easily in the digestion process). Solubility lies in the proteins used to make the product. I watched the product dissolve into water quite easily. P.S. They also make pill pockets, which we use for pill time in our household.

Nutro

Another line in the Mars Petcare family is Nutro®. Dexter went nose to nose with the food and I went hand to mouth, as you can see in the video below. I never let my dog use or eat anything unless I am willing to try it first. Did I mention the name of this blog is Fidose of REALITY? We keep it real, see?

I allow my dog, Dexter, to eat kibble in his brain games we play at night. The variety I tasted and was most imperssed by is the NUTRO® FARM’S HARVEST Chicken & Whole Brown Rice Recipe. Nutro actually had a farmer on site at their booth to share with me that they sell their white and brown rice to Nutro. Talk about field to bowl! They guarantee that all of their FARM’S HARVEST recipes are never outsourced. The veggies are freeze-dried and taste yummy, too.  Dogs get bored eating the same meal over and over, so I feel good sharing Nutro Farm’s Harvest with Dexter as a game reward.

Nutro dog food
Dexter says, “Hey, gimme some of that, please!”

Check out the shapes in this bowl of Nutro Farm’s Harvest. I asked why the shapes look the way they do and not typical round or square kibble pieces. The folks at Mars want the vegetables to be interspersed throughout the food and not settle at the bottom. The shape of the kibble ensures the vegetables are interspersed throughout and that dogs will eat the veggies, too!

Nutro dog food
Clever idea, Nutro – great shapes and veggies!

Bonus Impressions

Some of the key points I learned that dog parents will find comforting about Mars Petcare:

  • Over 600 quality checks take place in their plants every day.
  • Any Mars Petcare associate can “stop the line” of production at any time if they feel something is amiss or doesn’t seem, smell, or look right. That’s what mutuality and freedom means at Mars Petcare. Even the desks are not desks at all: But an open, airy, spacious work center where employees see and interact with dogs and cats.
  • In terms of sourcing, all of the Mars Petcare suppliers must allow Mars Petcare associates in to inspect.
  • Pedigree is the #1 canned dog food in the United States.
Maggie Marton
Fab fellow pet blogger, Maggie Marton, rides the bus to the GIC with me.

About the Center

Mars Petcare broke ground on the Global Innovation Center in May 2012. The campus features four distinct buildings, each serving a specific purpose in the life-cycle of pet food innovation for Mars Petcare.

  • The 39,904 square ft.Quality & Innovation Center houses research and development associates working in an office setting, in addition to a state-of-the-art microbiological and analytical laboratory.
  • • New technologies and products will be developed and produced on a small scale at the 56,589 square ft.Product Development Center before full-scale production is implemented throughout the company’s manufacturing network.
  • The 28,461 square ft. Pet Feeding Center is where the pets will live. It has unique circular kennels where dogs will live in pairs, as well as indoor/outdoor play areas for resident dogs and cats.
  • The 10,302 square ft. Learning Center features an interactive learning environment and Mars history museum for guests. The Learning Center also includes space for focus groups, a conference center, workout room and break areas for Associates.

 

Mars GIC
Image courtesy Mars Petcare. Sky view of the Global Innovation Center.

Bottom Line

I am impressed. The transparency and going to face to face with pet bloggers, like us, reassured me in the strides the Mars Petcare team is making in helping pets live longer lives. Oh, and we asked our pooch, Dexter, to try the new Pedigree Dentastix Fresh Bites. Here’s his review:

What’s your dog’s favorite treat?

 

Note: I was not compensated to tell you this. Mars Petcare asked me and about 20 bloggers to tour their Global Innovation Center during the BlogPaws Conference time frame.  They gave us a goodie bag, samples, and treated us to lunch and a fabulous day. Fidose of Reality believes in sharing information to help pet parents be informed and stay informed.

Comments

  1. How cool that must have been to see the behind the scenes stuff. What an experience.

  2. I would have loved to gone to this. I grew up with Pedigree chickyum and rice, Greenies and Dentastixs. It would have been great to see how things were done there. Thanks for sharing what you seen. It was very interesting to read.

  3. I saw Greenies on a YouTube Vlog and gave it to my Cat and he loves it! He was a bit overweight and I’ve since then seen a difference in weight . I love “Behind the Scenes ” type of event . You covered it well

  4. This sounds really great. I give my dogs Dentastix for their teeth and breath. I love all the different products out there for the dogs and cats.

  5. How neat that you had a behind the scenes peak at Mars Petcare!

    P.S: are you going to repost your session on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook from the conference? I’m about to start up on Instagram and realize my notes from your session are a bit lacking. I apologize if I missed it here or on the BlogPaws site.

    Thank you!

  6. Mom wanted to go on that tour, but since it wasn’t dog friendly she passed. We would have had to arrive at the hotel and have her leave right away, which just wasn’t good for us in her opinion.

  7. What an awesome experience for you and the other bloggers. Truly it warms my heart that this company is using shelter pets to assist in the selections of their products. Thanks for sharing your behind the scenes experience with all of us. The information you shared is invaluable!

  8. Wow, you guys are so lucky that you got to see the Willy Wonka of the pet world! I’m green w/ envy. I had read about the Innovation Center on their site and it looks like the place is as impressive as it looks online! My dogs love Dentastix chews, including the new minty variety! We got several of them at the conference in our swag bag and at the Pedigree Dentastix booth but they didn’t last long….. as in, my dogs scarfed them down long before we headed home from Nashville! Thanks for sharing this post, I enjoyed getting this insider’s peek into the Mars Petcare Global Innovation Center.

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