Mars braced for ongoing reformulation battle

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: E number, Nutrition

Mars says it will continue to reformulate its products to remove artificial colours, additives and saturated fats where feasible, as it launches a new advertising campaign to play up its ingredient commitments.

A company spokesperson told that while it had been focusing on promoting reformulation since 2006, research and development into additives was ongoing, particularly in the field of saturated fats.

The comments come as Mars’ UK-arm launches a new advertising campaign in a bid to promote its work in recent years to change the ingredients used in some of its leading brands such as Maltesers, Snickers and the Mars bar.

Artificial additives have received much media attention recently, particularly following the publication of the Southampton Study last year, which linked certain food colourings to hyperactivity in children.

These concerns along with wider worries over childhood obesity have led a number of the world’s leading sweet makers including Cadbury and Nestle to review the types of ingredients being used in their products.

Mars said that despite its decision to promote the efforts it had already made to cut out additives like the seven mentioned in the Southampton Study, there was work ahead.

“{We are] constantly reviewing and improving our entire product offering but it is not possible to reformulate all of our products at the same speed,”​ said the Mars spokesperson. “We have taken a large step in the right direction by removing artificial colours and flavourings from our best selling ranges, and we aren't stopping there.

‘Raising the Bar’

Mars said that its latest promotional campaign, entitled ‘Raising the Bar’, would continue in print media for the remainder of 2008 and would continue into the next year in an as yet unknown form.

The company said that it hoped the scheme would inform consumers of its reformulation commitments to better understand what exactly they are consuming in relation to their diets.

A spokesperson for the group claimed that Mars had been looking for many years as to how it can improve its products to meet growing consumer health concerns over additives and trans fats.

“Our programme to reduce [trans fats] began in 2002 and they have been reduced by 85 per cent since this time,”​ said the spokesperson. “Now there are no Mars products containing more than 1 per cent and 99 per cent contain less than 0.5 per cent trans fat.

UK-based rival Cadbury has also pledged to cut out artificial colourings from its confectionery products, announcing in April that it hoped to have removed them completely from its portfolio by the end of the year.

Southampton Study

The additives debate has intensified over the last 12 months following the publication of the Southampton Study into food colourings.

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) decided earlier this year to push for a national voluntary removal of the additives through extensive reformulation, while advising the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to implement a ban.

Pressure on the confectionery sector

The six colours linked to hyperactivity by the Southampton study were tartrazine (E102), quinoline yellow (E104), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), ponceau 4R (E124) and allura red (E129).

While the FSA's conclusions will not result in an immediate ban, they do increase the pressure placed on the entire food industry to consider reformulation.

The Food Commission, which campaigns for healthier, safer food, listed on its website more than 1,000 products available in the UK that still contain the six colours.

The majority of these products are from the confectionery sector, whose products are primarily aimed at children, therefore resulting in particular scrutiny of confectionery companies.

Related topics: R&D, Mars, Ingredients

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