Brand suicide or bold move?

Following a high profile product recall earlier this year, Mars is back in the news after it announced plans to introduce new labels on its pasta and rice products to distinguish between ‘everyday’ and ‘occasional’ foods.

Affecting the likes of Mars’ Dolmio lasagne kits, pasta sauces and oven bake kits, the labelling move was announced as part of a five-year global health initiative, Health and Wellbeing Ambition, which will focus on five areas:

  • Improving nutritional content
  • Providing consumers with more nutrition information to help them make more balanced choices
  • Inspiring consumers to cook and eat healthy meals with friends and family
  • Exploring new formats and opportunities to offer products in more places at affordable prices
  • Providing Mars Food Associates opportunities to improve wellbeing through nutrition education, cooking facilities and healthier food options.

Announcing the ambition, Fiona Dawson, global president of Mars Food, Drinks and Multisales, said, “We’re incredibly proud and excited to share our new five-year Health and Wellbeing Ambition. This ambition advances our purpose of creating better food today and a better world tomorrow. As a busy mum myself, I know how tricky it can be to find healthy meals which everyone in the family will enjoy, and of course, they often need to be quick and easy to prepare.

“I’m delighted that Mars Food is helping to provide healthy solutions through our famous brands. Our nutrition criteria sets a very high standard for our products, and we also want to help our consumers understand the difference between ‘everyday’ and ‘occasional’ products within a balanced diet.”

Rather than championing this bold move by Mars to better educate consumers on levels of salt, added sugar and fat, coverage of the announcement has largely focused on how the company has committed ‘brand suicide’ by discouraging consumers from eating its products, and not much attention has been given to the wider ambition and its other initiatives, including reformulation.

With so much attention currently on sugar and salt reduction, and calls for action for manufacturers to reformulate their products to be ‘healthier’, it surprises me that these voluntary steps by Mars haven’t been applauded for their focus on educating and helping consumers eat a balanced diet.
It will be interesting to see what impact the new labelling scheme will have on sales when it rolls out, and also if other manufacturers adopt similar self regulation initiatives.

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