Cadbury Schweppes, the UK soft drinks and confectionery group, has hit out at critics of its Get Active scheme which allows schools to swap chocolate bar wrappers for sports equipment, calling them proponents of the 'nanny state'.
Cadbury is keen to fight any suggestion of regulation concerning marketing confectionery to children, a reaction which differs strongly from the alcoholic drinks industry's self-regulatory approach - and it may not provide the success story Cadbury is after, according to market analysts Datamonitor.
The chairman of Cadbury Schweppes, John Sunderland, has hit out against the possibility of anti-obesity legislation, in a clear response to opposition to the Get Active programme. This scheme was not well received, with critics such as the British Dietetic Association speaking out against the apparent contradiction of handing out sports equipment in return for increased chocolate consumption.
However, Cadbury clearly feels threatened, according to Datamonitor, not only by the backlash against its scheme, but also by the increasingly wary attitude of parents to the marketing and advertising of 'unhealthy' products to children. In particular, the company is concerned about the possibility of legislation similar to that applied to tobacco, and currently being threatened for alcoholic drinks.
These fears are not without foundation. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently announced that it would be seeking some degree of regulation over the marketing of sugary drinks and snacks to children in order to combat the rising tide of obesity in the developed world. This has made many players in the sugar industry very nervous, as it would limit their ability to target their key market.
By speaking out against the nanny-state, Cadbury is making it clear that it takes the issue of legislating marketing very seriously and is prepared to fight to keep the status quo, Datamonitor said. Cadbury will clearly not be alone in this fight - US sugar industry heads recently spoke out against a WHO report which stated that sugar should make up only 10 per cent of a healthy diet.
The confectionery industry's combative attitude is quite different to that of the alcoholic drinks industry: in the UK, the Portman Group, a self-regulatory body set up by the major drinks groups there, has been harsh in dealing with products which it perceives are targeted at children. Datamonitor suggests that this would be a far better route to go down than the "reactionary tactics" of Cadbury.
For more details of Datamonitor's research on the UK confectionery market, click here.