Mars has named Fiona Hughes its new global pet care marketing director for cat brands including Whiskas and Sheba.

Hughes, who takes up the newly created role from 2 November, will be based in Mars' Brussels office and will focus on developing marketing opportunities in key growth markets around the world.

Her seven-year experience within Mars's pet care division was described as a valuable asset by the company. Hughes said that her knowledge of the expectations cat owners have of pet care product suppliers was likely to have been a key factor in her appointment.

"It is essential to be able to empathise with the needs of the consumer and understand what a special relationship they share with their cat," she said. "The pet care market is one of the fastest-growing categories in grocery and Mars is a great company to work for, with a high-performing range of key cat food brands."

Hughes added that the role pets played in society had altered over the past decade. "The change in the average family demographic has affected the way households view their pets. As couples choose to start having children later in life, pets are increasingly playing the role of child substitutes," she said.

Hughes was previously Mars' UK marketing director for pet care, a role she took up in May 2007 following a series of senior marketing positions at the pet care division of Mars in Australia and New Zealand. She joined the company in 2000 from Australian telecommunications business Telstra.