Food In Canada

Who’s Who 2024: Ellen Thompson, GM, Mars Wrigley Canada

By Jack Kazmierski   

Food In Canada In-Depth Women in Manufacturing Bake & Snack Food Confectionery Pet Food Editor pick Mars Wrigley

Even as a child, Ellen Thompson knew the industry she wanted to work in

Photo © Mars Wrigley Canada

While most children dream of growing up to become an astronaut, a firefighter or a doctor, Ellen Thompson, general manager of Mars Wrigley Canada, seemed to be focused on consumer packaged goods (CPG).

“I’ve always been interested in the CPG industry—ever since I was a young kid,” she admits. “When I was nine years old, I sent ad campaign ideas and product recommendations to some of my favourite toys and treat companies, and luckily, they engaged and responded to me. I loved the idea of improving products to make them more enjoyable for me and my friends. At the time, I wasn’t thinking too much about it, but it was ultimately the foundation of my passion for consumers. So, it’s only natural that this enthusiasm led me to the CPG industry.”

Despite her enthusiasm for the industry, Thompson’s journey from nine-year-old corporate advisor to GM of Mars Wrigley Canada was anything but a straight line.

“I started my career in a completely different industry, but I could never replicate the excitement and enthusiasm that I found as a nine-year-old passionate about consumer products,” she says.


While she enjoys the diversity the CPG industry offers, she definitely has a favourite. “I’ve been with Mars for 13 years and have always felt passionate about my work, whether it’s ice cream, pet care or confectionery,” she explains. “But I must say, the great thing about coming back to confection is I get to be both a marketer and a consumer of what we produce. And personally, I love sharing the products with my kids and seeing their excitement for the brands.”

Understanding the consumer

In addition to a degree in general management and marketing, Thompson also has a degree in psychology, which she says has helped her better understand consumers.

“I’ve found that my psychology degree has helped immensely throughout my career,” she says. “In an industry where consumers have such personal memories and feelings tied to the products, it’s especially important to understand what drives them, what brings them joy, but also what turns them off.”

This understanding of human psychology, she adds, has also helped her better manage employees.

“True leadership is all about understanding people, figuring out what you can do to support them, helping them achieve their goals and ambitions, and taking care of the whole person,” she says. “And just as in marketing, understanding motivational triggers is very helpful in not only getting the best out of your team, but also in fostering and retaining your talent.”

Challenges and opportunities

Thompson is well aware of the pain today’s consumers experience when they see the price of groceries edging upwards, week after week.

“In our industry and beyond, affordability is top of mind for everyone,” she says. “We make every effort to minimize costs to provide a full range of delicious products while making sure we preserve both the value and quality of our iconic brands.”

While affordability will continue to be an issue with consumers, Thompson is committed to navigating the choppy waters ahead.

“My goal is for Mars to lead the pack and show the industry what’s possible when you lead with purpose, never compromise on quality and centre your decisions around consumer insights,” she concludes.

This article was originally published in the April/May 2024 issue of Food in Canada.

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