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The feminine force leading the Promeal pack

Anyone with a pet will not have failed to notice the new splash being made by Boss and Petley’s brands on shelf. Meet a key figure behind these relaunches: Tania Morgan-Weyer, the MD of Cape Town wet pet food manufacturer, Promeal. Here’s an interview with this determined and feisty FMCG marketer and business leader who has slashed through the glass ceiling so typical of the sector.

Tania Morgan-WeyerWith a career journey that includes stints in education, advertising and marketing, Morgan-Weyer (left) says she has encountered her fair share of challenges as a strong-willed woman.

“I am forthright, cut to the chase, say it like it is. I don’t play the political game and I don’t stroke egos. I am slightly anti-establishment and I challenge the status quo when things don’t make sense to me or when I believe there is a better way,” she says.

“I have struggled with egocentric, dictatorial male leaders which has resulted in me being spurned by some large local and multinational organisations and, in some instances, I’ve had to rebuild and start from scratch. This has at times been very scary.”

Here, Morgan-Weyer shares with her journey into the pet food industry, the opportunities and challenges that lie within it, and she imparts an empowering message for Women’s Month, to BizCommunity.com.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your career history and your journey to MD of Promeal?

As an Eastern Cape girl from a close-knit middle-class family I have always been a creative person who is fiercely independent. I would describe myself as a king salmon. A woman of the Earth. Nelipot. Adventurer. Traveller. Runner. Dreamer. Creator and curator of brands. Innovator.

After five years at university studying a business degree and doing my Honours, I travelled for a while and returned to South Africa to begin working at the PE Technikon, teaching a bridging class to African students in 1994 after the first elections. It was a thoroughly rewarding experience and one I have cherished from my journey to where I am.

I moved to Johannesburg and changed career to an art buyer in advertising, which is some of the most fun I’ve had at work. I then took the opportunity to move into account management, and at a certain point was also blessed to drive strategy in my account director role, working with wonderful clients like Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Mars Incorporated and local business like National Brands and Sanlam.

I crossed the great divide from advertising into classical marketing when my Mars client offered me a job in-house as a marketing lead on their snack food business.

Then I worked for Cadbury across EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) as a regional lead for Halls and Sugar Innovation. I have also worked in fashion retail relaunching Spitz and Green Cross for the AVI Group. I worked in Standard Bank Private Clients and Nando’s when I had my own consulting business.

In 2012, I moved to the Mother City and joined Brandhouse to work on Heineken amongst other beer brands.

I found myself at Promeal in 2014 when I was contacted by a head hunter and presented with my first general management role as managing director.

We are a proudly South African manufacturer, so most of our raw materials are locally sourced. We make some of the best quality pet foods in the country and our products are made from human grade ingredients and slow cooked the sous vide method to keep in taste and nutrients.

We run our business with great integrity and transparency; we do what we say. And our brands and products deliver on pet nutrition that is nutritious as well as tasty so that your furry kids (cats and dogs) love them and benefit from them. Our manufacturing site – or our industrial kitchen – is BRC (British Retail Consortium) accredited and so food safety is a top priority for us.

We also test all our products independently at Onderstepoort to ensure they are of high standard and pet approved.

We are very proud to be the number one wet dog food manufacturer in SA with over 55% market share which is a testament to our product quality and the market’s trust in our dedication to quality.

Most pet owners and potential pet owners unintentionally don’t realise what is good for their pets on a nutritional level.

It can also be a minefield understanding pet food labels which means that they often buy ignorantly and purchase brands which historically their families have always used without knowing that the recipes and ingredients could be inferior. Or they may feed brands that appear superior but in fact are not, but are marketing themselves as such.

Consumers need to educate themselves and allow themselves to be educated so that they can make the wisest choices for their pets in the context of what they can afford, and should also know the benefits of feeding their animals with a varied diet of wet and dry food in order to provide the best nutrition.

Pet owners also take a lot of advice from vets who are often ambassadors for brands, having vested interests in those that sponsor them. Believe it or not, vets are not animal nutritionists and only study animal nutrition for three months in their studies.

Another challenge is that pet food is highly regulated, and to a point that is not always constructive as the regulatory bodies have internal delays which prevent us from launching innovation effectively and this can be frustrating.

We are a small local player – small in that we are focused on the wet pet food market and the largest portion of the market is in dry food. We are up against big companies with deep pockets and we do not have the same resources to market on the same level. We have to be smarter, more efficient, more effective and focus on innovation.

Natural resources like water, chicken, animal protein and fish are becoming scarcer. We need to understand how to create sustainability in how we manufacture and how we develop recipes…..

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