Topalian's promotion follows Adam Grant's appointment as general manager of Mars Wrigley UK in March, having been regional general manager of Danone Dairy UK, Belgium, Netherlands and Ireland. Grant spent 17 years at Danone and his move marked the first external hire into the UK general manager role at Mars Wrigley.
Mars Food UK said Topalian would combine his current responsibilities as sales director with overall responsibility for Mars Food UK, where he has been acting general manager since October 2020 and sit on Mars’ European Food leadership team.
Topalian has been Mars Food UK sales director since August 2019. In that time, he oversaw Mars Food’s COVID-19 response, ensuring strong availability throughout the pandemic.
He helped lead the supporting role the company played for those in need, with the donation of five million meals in 2020 and the development of Mars Food’s partnership with the Trussell Trust, which operates a network of food banks.
In terms of innovation, Topalian helped steer the launch of Mars Food's first mono-material ready-to-heat rice pouch and the rebranding of its Uncle Ben's range to Ben’s Original.
He initially joined Mars in 2016 as grocery channel director for Mars Pet Nutrition UK. Before that he worked at Iglo Group, where he rose to become grocery trading director, and Unilever, where he held category development and business development roles.
Topalian said he aimed to continue 'working with our retail partners to drive category value whilst facing into the changing world around us as we move past the pandemic and understand consumer behaviour shifts and new trends'.
5.5bn healthy meals by 2025
He will also likely spearhead the business's execution of its stated ambitions to deliver 5.5bn healthy meals by 2025, to champion shared meals and secure open access to better food.
Sergeant moved to become general general manager, pet nutrition, Australia at Mars.
Mars Foods has 13 brands available in more than 30 countries, including Masterfoods, Seeds of Change, Tasty Bite and Dolmio.
Among other recent food industry appointments, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive Karen Betts has been named as chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, replacing Ian Wright, who steps down at the end of 2021. In addition, ABP has appointed Joe Kenny as chief executive of its renewables division Olleco.