The Mars R&D Award is our signature, global program recognizing outstanding contributions that have delivered business impact. With more than 500 nominations, we’re introducing you to our final 12 recipients across four award categories.
Penny Morris is a self-proclaimed geek. But don’t let the cheeky designation fool you – her enthusiasm for all things science is truly contagious.
She’s spent more than 17 years dedicated to Research & Development here at Mars, and today, she’s the Global Scientific & Regulatory Affairs (SRA) Director for Human Health & Nutrition. When it comes to making the complex a little easier to understand, she shines.
We sat down with Penny to talk all things human health, nutrition, R&D and so much more.
Question: Tell us about your role.
Answer: I work to bring health and nutrition science into the business and understand how that translates to regulation.
The world of SRA is changing. For a long time, science would drive regulation. National regulators would have conversations with scientists and industries, and we’d come to a good science-based conclusion and regulation would follow.
Today, science still happens. But consumer perception will also impact a particular issue. It’s no longer governments regulating our foods, it’s social media, retailers, customers and shareholders, all trying to define what’s “healthy.”
What we’re trying to do is provide early insight into what’s happening in the external world – what has consumers concerned – so we can make informed decisions and act in a timely manner.
Q: Anything happening now that has consumers talking?
A: There’s a lot of buzz around the idea of ultra-processed foods. It just sounds concerning, as if a food is highly refined. But really, it means any food made up of more than five ingredients including one not typically found in your kitchen. So, it’s our job to bring that concern to the business and explain what it means in scientific terms. Then, we can build the scientific case and provide technical information to corporate affairs so they can build an advocacy strategy using the latest evidence. Our goal is always to follow the evidence, maintain our freedom to operate – and sell great products.
Q: Tell us about your award-winning project.
A: In short, it was about consolidating large amounts of information and putting it into the right hands so Associates could make more informed decisions as it relates to health and nutrition.
We created a health and nutrition community comprised of Associates with a background in nutrition. We’ve used that community to discuss nutrition issues and provide a shared voice of expertise to the business.
We’ve also worked to make nutrition science more accessible. We produce a quarterly horizon scanning report that provides expert insights to identify issues and opportunities that may impact the business. We supplement it with a snapshot of what we were seeing on a weekly basis so Associates can see how issues are emerging or evolving. Meaning, if something is interesting, new or noteworthy, it would go in our “Last Week in Nutrition” update. It’s an effective way to take a more proactive approach to human nutrition information.
Q: What do you love about R&D?
For me, it’s about where the business goes next. I’m passionate about making decisions based on good evidence, and that’s what this role requires you to do. Whether you’re bringing in new technology to drive efficiencies or bringing in information to help the business understand future endeavors – R&D is the frontier of tomorrow. And…it allows me to be a bit of geek, which I love!
Q: Why is this award so meaningful?
A: I think it highlights the incredible team I’m fortunate enough to work with. This work, and ultimately award, wouldn’t have been possible without them. I work with so many incredible Associates across different functions – and their support and encouragement motivate me every day.
To be recognized for that work? It’s just utterly humbling, and I’m honored to share it with my amazing team.