LONDON — Data is everything in today’s IIoT manufacturing environments, including those producing pet food and care products. At Mars Petcare UK, efforts to leverage pet industry data to promote the health and wellbeing of four-legged companions are steered in part by Analytics and Data Science Lead Jackie Clayton, who lends a wealth of passion and experience to the mission.

“Pets provide so many benefits to people and society, so I feel really privileged to have the opportunity to use science and data to generate insights that will enable us to make their lives better, too,” she said.

In the following Q&A, Clayton shares how she is helping Mars Petcare improve the lives of pets and their owners through data analysis, and shares some of the trends she expects to fuel the industry’s future.


PFP: Tell us about your business or career in the pet industry.

Clayton: I’m an analytics and data science lead at Mars Petcare, but a relative newcomer to the pet industry having joined Mars in 2021. I spent the early part of my career building up experience in data and analytics, including in customer loyalty and at my own startup.

Being at the forefront of data and analytics might not be the first thing you would think about a pet care company, but data and analytics is playing a huge role as we look to deliver on our purpose — A Better World for Pets — at Mars Petcare. The big attraction in joining Mars Petcare was how the business was looking to use data to improve the lives of pets and pet owners. Pets provide so many benefits to people and society, so I feel really privileged to have the opportunity to use science and data to generate insights that will enable us to make their lives better, too.


PFP: How did you get your start in the pet industry, and how did that experience lead you to where you are now?

Clayton: I’ve always loved data and science, but what attracted me to Mars is the way it uses data across the business. Our team is able to reach all areas of the business, from supporting the formulation of great products, to revealing new insights about pet health and optimizing our supply chains to help achieve our vision of a healthy planet. We are using data to ensure our products and services are meeting the needs of both pets and pet owners — by better understanding their needs, we can help ensure pets live better and healthier lives. For example, we use cutting-edge data science applications in diagnostic tools such as Whistle™, which detects changes in pet behavior that could signal a change in wellbeing and therefore helps predict the onset of disease.


PFP: What has been your biggest challenge — personal or professional — related to your work in the pet industry?

Clayton: At Mars, we are constantly looking at ways to use technology, science and data to generate insights that will help make the lives of pets better and healthier. But often it’s difficult to get a view of the full picture as there can be fewer touchpoints between pet owners and businesses, unlike in other sectors such as retail.


PFP: Tell me about a professional accomplishment in the pet industry that you are proud of.

Clayton: I’m most proud of my work on the recent State of Pet Homelessness Project, the largest global international study into pet homelessness. We partnered with a team of leading animal welfare experts and organizations across 20 countries to try to understand the root causes of pet homelessness. Generating the data involved over nine months of fieldwork, 200 professional interviews, over 7,700 hours of gathering data, reviewing 930 sources, 44 analyst interviews, and approximately 30,000 public surveys. The sheer size and scale of the report is an impressive feat, and I’m very proud of our data and analytics team’s contribution to it.

Pet homelessness is an underexplored topic when it comes to data, so this report is a hugely positive contribution. The fact that it covers 20 countries and is available to everyone is helping businesses, NGOs, policymakers and the public to better understand how the challenges of pet homelessness vary country-to-country and region-to-region. This in turn helps them to design bespoke interventions to tackle the challenge. I take a lot of pride in the way data and analytics have provided the backbone of this project and been used to bring transparency, awareness and insight to this global issue.


PFP: What is top of mind for you and/or your business in the industry right now?

Clayton: A large part of Mars’ pet care business portfolio is centered around serving the needs of millions of pets and pet owners around the world. We are constantly focusing on finding new ways to help pets and pet owners live happy, healthy lives together. This also means a more sustainable world for people, pets and the planet. Across the business we are driving innovation and giving pet owners the chance to make sustainable choices, while taking ambitious steps to reduce our carbon footprint and redesigning our packaging for circularity. 


PFP: If you could pick three trends influencing the industry today, which are the most important and why?

Clayton: I see several key trends influencing the pet care industry at the moment — from formulation and alternative ingredients to personalized nutrition and smart pet technology. For me, the most important one is the growth of data and science, which has the potential to change millions of lives.

Take our State of Pet Homelessness Project as an example. It shares data-led findings about the factors impacting pet homelessness across the globe, bringing insights that can guide individuals and organizations working to tackle the problem to help make a real difference.

Then, there is, of course, how we use new technologies and tools to drive preventive and more personalized care. Predictive models, which allow diagnosing and treating diseases at an earlier stage, have the potential to be transformative for pet healthcare, as in human healthcare.


PFP: What is something about the pet industry that people outside of the industry may not realize?

Clayton: The industry is highly emotive because we’re working with people’s beloved pets, who are part of the family. And when it comes to pets, data and insight are even more important because pets can’t talk, so they can’t tell us what’s wrong. We are constantly looking at and embracing new technologies that allow us to work smarter and faster to improve the lives of pets. What I love about my work at Mars is that we are an innovative, forward-thinking and digitally savvy business. 


PFP: What advice would you give to young people starting their careers in this industry?

Clayton: Looking at businesses that are purpose-led and aim to make a difference in the industry is a great place to start. From a data and analytics perspective, the career paths are so varied across Mars Petcare that you can quickly learn a lot. There are so many opportunities to make a real impact, such as producing data-driven reports and insights — like the State of Pet Homelessness Project — which help tackle global issues. Such use of our work in data and analytics gives real purpose to what we do every day, and I would always encourage getting involved in projects and businesses that do this.


PFP: Just for fun, do you consider yourself a dog person or a cat person? Or, if you have pets of your own, tell us a little bit about them. 

Clayton: I grew up around a lot of cats at home, so I’d say I’m definitely more of a cat person.


PFP: Any final advice for other women in the pet industry? 

Clayton: Immerse yourself in working spaces that support you. Women working in data and analytics can still face a lot of barriers and limited diversity in teams, but these women are your best network. Mars has just partnered with the UK organization Women in Data to help promote women in data roles, which is a great step in the right direction in promoting more women into senior data and analytics positions. If you have the right people around you, you can achieve so much more.


In her current role as analytics and data science lead with Mars Petcare UK, Jackie Clayton is invested in leveraging data and analytics to drive innovation that benefits pets, pet owners and the planet. Before joining Mars, she led Aviva’s Quantum University platform, and also founded and directed Aimia Inc.’s Analytics Academy program. She has also held various analyst roles with Nectar and Safeway. Clayton earned her bachelor’s degree in statistics and operational research at Coventry University, followed by a master’s degree in operational research from Lancaster University.

Continue reading about other female leaders featured in our Women in the Pet Industry series.