Tracey Massey has officially been president of Mars Chocolate North America for about a year now. And she’s already changing things. 

“What surprised me when I came in was that we needed to be even more customer-focused,” she says. “We have always been very brand-focused and the biggest change I’m making is further driving customer centricity throughout our business.”

But how do you tackle such a challenge? Well, for Massey, it’s meant going out and meeting with customers — lots and lots of customers.

“As the former global chocolate cfo, It’s not always easy being a sales person,” she says, laughing, before getting more serious. “It’s really all about building those customer partnerships, working with them, understanding their business, and you can’t do that from a desk. So I must have seen, this year, 40-plus customers.”

And what has she learned from all those face-to-face meetings?

 “A big piece of it is having better partnerships with our customers so we know what they want, we know what’s coming, then we can plan for it. And then making sure we’ve got the right inventory to be able to meet demand.”

Massey also realized that Mars needs to be even faster when it comes it to product development.

“Customers will say, ‘We want the new stuff, to draw the consumers into the store,’ because we know chocolate’s all about variety-seeking,” she says. 

But she knows from experience that it can be a tricky thing to get it just right.

“We know, from all of our experience, around the world and everywhere, consumers are very loyal to their favorite products. We call it repertoire, but what will happen is, I could ask you the question, ‘What are your three favorite products?’ and you could probably roll them off. So what they do is they build their repertoire over time and they tend to always go back to their three favorite products,” she explains. “So they’ll go and try new things — it’s a category where people like new stuff— so they’ll try something new and then they’ll go back to their favorites. But, if you don’t have the new, they’re less likely to come into the store. “

All that hasn’t stopped Massey from pulling the trigger on the launch of Mars’ new goodnessknows brand, which the company debuted at the Expo. The product, a line of healthy snack bars coated in dark chocolate, had been in test markets for five years, and Massey says it was time to go national. And, she’s not worried that it will have to compete with the consumer repertoires people have with Mars' chocolate bars.

“It’s going to be in that snack bar space, which we don’t play in right now,” she says. “So I don’t expect that to steal from our current products. They’ll buy that for a different reason, and we expect, given the great taste, that it will stay for a long time.”

Another thing Massey decided to go forward with is Mars’ support of an FDA proposal to add “added sugars” to nutritional panels. Many in the confectionery industry are against the change because it would just draw attention to how much added sugars are in confectionery products. But Massey wasn’t deterred by that. She said it wasn’t a hard decision.

“We believe the consumer comes first. Like if you look at our five principles, we say the consumer is our boss. It’s one of our first principles, the quality principle. We always do what’s right for the consumer,” she explains. “So what we do is say, ‘What do we need to do to make sure our consumer is happy?’ Consumers want more choice, they want more transparency, they want to know what’s in their products. It’s the right thing to do. It’s important. … We believe that consumers need to know what they’re eating. “

It sounds like Massey is going to be pretty great at giving both customers and consumers what they want.