Manufacturer Rep of the Year

 

PROFILE: MARS CHOCOLATE NORTH AMERICA

Founded: 1911 as Mars Candy Factory Inc.
Territory: West of the Rocky Mountains
Estimated 2009 Regional Vend Sales: Not revealed

 

Don Collins recognizes this is a difficult time for vendors. They are searching for ways to increase turns and margins. More healthy requests and nutrition regulations are top of mind when operators call him to ask if Mars has alternatives to candy. Collins works to bring the business back into focus. “Candy is a necessary part of a profitable mix,” argues Collins. Operators just have to be selective and aware of what the customer wants, and actually buys.

VENDING CUSTOMERS ARE ‘SALT OF THE EARTH’

After 27 years working in the grocery division of Mars, a
shifting of corporate positions put Collins in a new arena — vending. While it’s only been three years, the operators and brokers he works with have taken notice of the modest, good natured sales representative — nominating him for the Reader’s Choice award. And Collins is glad to be among them. “People in vending are salt of the earth, honest, fun people,” he said.

Collins enjoys working with the decision makers and owners of vending companies rather than the management of the grocery channel. “It’s challenging because of the economy,” said Collins, “but they (vending operators) are willing to listen…they’re great people.”

While every operator is different, Collins has learned their problems are the same: declining sales, government regulations, taxes and “healthy” requests. When he gets calls asking if Mars has healthy items, he says they do, but they also sell candy. He argues candy can be part of a balanced eating regimen. “And if you put in any candy — put in top sellers,” reminds Collins.

CUSTOMER FOCUSED

According to Collins, the Mars philosophy from the founder is that the customer is the boss. In Collins’ eyes, Mars’ goal is to give consumers what they want, when they want it at a price they want. “I love bringing the two together (product suppliers and consumers),” said Collins, “and vending is the tool we’re doing that with.” Because the vending operator is also looking to satisfy consumers, Collins understands everyone has the same goal.

Although fairly new to the industry, Collins is glad to be in vending. “I work with fantastic people at Mars, both the operators and product suppliers,” he said. And winning the Automatic Merchandiser Readers’ Choice Awards is, in his words, “Quite an honor. I am accepting this on behalf of my fellow associates at Mars on the vend team and all of the operators and suppliers that I work with in the channel.”

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