Dunning has joined Mars from Kraft, where he was impulse sales director for Cadbury products. He replaces David Bell, who was poached by Findus late last year to become its new commercial director.
In his new role, Dunning will report directly to Mars Chocolate UK president Fiona Dawson and will be working across Mars' entire chocolate portfolio, which includes Galaxy, Maltesers, Mars bar and Celebrations.
Mars chiefs will be hoping he can help transform the fortunes of the Mars bar, which slumped 20 places the Britain's Biggest Brands rankings [The Grocer, 12 March 2011] following a 14.2% fall in value sales in 2010.
The brand has since benefited from a Win & Play With Your Heroes on-pack campaign, which gives fans the chance to take part in a warm-up with two current England players and play a match at Wembley Stadium.
This year, the company has continued to ramp up its presence in the bite-sized confectionery arena, rolling out Galaxy Bites in April following the success of Galaxy Counters last year. It has also announced a £14m above-the-line spend for the Galaxy brand in 2011.
Dunning's appointment is the latest in a number of high-profile moves at Mars. In March, Mars UK food sales director Emma Evison was promoted to managing director following the retirement of Rob Hughes. Her previous role was taken by Tristan Butt, formerly sales director at Kerry Foods.
Dunning had been employed by Cadbury for more than 11 years, and remained with it after the company was bought by global giant Kraft in a £11.5bn deal in January 2010. Before joining the business, he studied manufacturing engineering and management at the University of Nottingham.
Bell had worked at Mars for more than 20 years in sales and marketing positions, most recently as the senior sales director for UK chocolate.