Tania Morgan-Weyer, the determined managing director of local wet pet food manufacturer Promeal, has been a key driver in the relaunch of the company's popular flagship Boss and Petley's brands. As a Pet Food Industry Association (PFI) board member, she's passionate about the shift towards more nutritious pet food and responsible pet ownership, and has assisted in steering the operational processes at Promeal's Atlantis factory in a more sustainable direction.
With a career journey that includes stints in education, advertising and marketing, Morgan-Weyer 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. 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 us 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.
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.
Elaborate on what Promeal brings to the local pet food market?
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.
What do you see as the current challenges and opportunities in the pet food industry?
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.
What inspires you, personally and professionally?
Mmmmm... a lot inspires me. Nature, sunsets, sunrises, flowers, animals – nature is our greatest source of inspiration. It was Einstein who said: “Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.”
The earth and exploring it. I love to travel, it’s the best university and text book. I’m inspired by grace, courage, humility and people who are real, authentic, gentle yet strong. Personally, my mother is a great inspiration and strength, as is my brother.
Would you say a glass ceiling exists for women in your industry?
I would say that men still dominate the boardrooms in SA, especially in FMCG, listed companies, private equity and manufacturing. Men also tend to operate in the old private school packs and they look out for each other. Straight-talking women who stand in their truth can be regarded as dangerous, too passionate and too “emotional” to have as a colleague around the boardroom table.
So yes, I do believe glass ceilings exist. However, I am of the firm belief that women are slowly but surely gaining respect. We do, however, need to work three times as hard as men to get places. I also do not believe we need to be men to succeed – we can stay soft and feminine and still be tenacious, smart leaders. A feminine leader can be a force through her humbleness.
We should not need days to celebrate each other, to appreciate each other and to appreciate ourselves. Each day should be one where we celebrate being alive, where we practice gratitude, where we are fully present in the now, and where we give acknowledgment to our fellow human beings. Where we are gracious and feminine but strong. However, the world is busy and the celebratory days allow us to stop and reflect.
Women set the tone for our homes, for our children and in most instances for society. I have put together some thoughts on how we can empower ourselves and how we can influence our lives as well as the lives of our children, families, friends and society.
Be. Do. Have. This is a phrase that when first shared with me, I did not fully understand. Most of society does Do. Have. Be. They do things to have things to be happy. Which means they never are, and it’s a constant chase for the elusive things that will make them happy.
Let me try to unpack it...
Be – Know who you are. Be true to yourself. Stay real. Love yourself. Get comfortable in your skin. Be grateful. Be love. We have to love ourselves. Value ourselves. Nobody can attach worth to something that is not valued and loved. Be brave. Stand firm for what is morally right. Stand firm in doing the right thing, especially when no one is watching. Be positive and optimistic. See how this fundamentally changes all around you and inside of you. Be kind. Ahead of all things be kind to yourself. To those around you and to mother earth. Tread lightly.
Dream and visualise. See where you want to go and be. Remember life is a journey and not the destination. You can be anything you wish to be.
Be prepared to consistently work for what you need and want. There is no such thing in life as fair. Life is not always fair. There is no such thing as entitlement, and we have to recognise this. Be prepared to work for what we need and want. We also need to be prepared to be tested. To have to get up from being knocked down. True success is getting up after being knocked down and moving forward stronger, wiser and bolder.
Do – If you know who you are you are able to be who you are. You will do the things that make you happy. There will be no need to bow down to expectations or society and to do the things that are supposedly the things you should do. If you are doing what you love it won’t be a job or a chore, it will be a labour of love.
Have – If you are being who you are and doing the things you love, you will have the things that make you happy.
Let’s start a women’s strength ritual. Start with a few simple things each day.
Start with a gratitude meditation – five things you are grateful for. Then commit 10 minutes each day to me time/self-care time – a great beneficial example is to body brush and to rub oneself with coconut oil or natural oil and then a cold shower. If we really want to take things one step further, commit twenty minutes a day, three times a week to a walk in nature. Breathe in the beauty and the wonder of the world.
Be an example ladies. Be the change you want to see. And believe. Believe in yourself and consistently apply this faith and strength.
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