McVitie’s and Mars take lead in public health drive

Mars and McVitie’s are taking a leading position on public health issues by reformulating their products, according to some food industry observers.

Picked: Mars and McVitie’s bars

Mars is reducing the saturated fats in its Mars, Snickers, Milky Way and Topic bars by 15% as part of an ongoing strategy to improve the nutritional credentials of its products. McVitie’s is reducing the calorie count in its Penguin bars by 6.2%. It says it is reformulating to meetgrowing consumer demand.

Giles Quick, a director at Kantar Worldpanel, says reformulation is the most successful way to change eating habits. However Don Williams, CEO of branding consultancy pi global, “despairs” when brands are forced to change their positioning or formulation to appease the “nanny state”.

“Offer consumers healthier products, but don’t remove their right to choose how to balance their diet and lifestyle,” he says.

The move comes ahead of proposals expected later this year to give the food and drinks industry more responsibility for public health campaigns such as Change4Life, and could give brands more freedom to push health agendas.

A spokesperson for Mars says the reformulation and supporting £1.4m campaign should encourage rivals to follow suit. Ian Barber, director of communications at the Advertising Association, says that allowing brands to talk about recipe changes encourages innovation and raises consumer choice. He says/ “It’s another example of advertising driving competition in the market.”

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